There are traditions and there are family routines. Tradition may be brought down from generation to generation but I believe that family routines can be created by your family and then enjoyed from year to year.
The kids are older now and our Chinese New Year routine has been established. Before, when they were younger, we did not have any routine but we thought that it would be very nice to have a family routine that they can look forward to each year. Now they know it well and look forward to …
- Shopping for Chinese New Year Clothes. We limit our shopping to once a year only (unless necessary), then we go all out and have a shopping spree for Chinese New Year and everyone looks forward to having new clothes. We figured out that if you buy new clothes throughout the year, Chinese New Year would not feel any different.
- Chinese New Year Cookies. Mummy does not bake so she will order the same cookies from the same place and when she brings them home the kids gape and go ooh and ahhh when they see the familiar cookies that they only get to eat once in a year. Then the kids will say “Please, please mummy can we eat them now?” and bad mommy will say “No, you will have to wait till Chinese New Year.”
- Haircuts. The whole family goes to the salon and have a haircut together. It kind of breaks the bank a little but its nice to go together. On normal days, sometimes mummy gives them home haircuts but for Chinese New Year, its off to the salon we go.
- Chinese New Year Decorations. Now that the kids are older, they can help out. They love clipping, stringing and making homemade angpow decorations and I love listening to them work as a team in deciding where to hang each decoration. Usually, I will ask their opinion and let them decide so they can really get in the mood and contribute.
- Spring Cleaning for Chinese New Year. Mummy gets to do most of it of course but on the eve of Chinese New Year, the kids will be roped in to wash the car and the porch. How they love the water and soap splashing fun.
- Reunion Dinner. Usually its just the four of us because parents in law are no longer with us but we still cook up a storm anyway and everyone dons new pyjamas after dinner. Then we pack money into the red packets that will be given out as angpows and mummy and daughter will do their nails. Then mummy and daddy will give the kids their angpow and they will put it under their pillow to sleep on. Everyone stays up late and at midnight we will turn on every light in the house to welcome New Year.
- First Day of Chinese New Year. Everyone gets up bright and early and have mee suah (vermicelli) soup then put on their brand new clothes and shoes. Then we go to the temple to watch the lion dances. At the temple, we’ll make it a point to buy the kids some inflatable helium balloons which we will let go and watch it fly in the sky later in the day. (This is not a Chinese New Year tradition, just our very own special routine.) After that we may go visiting or just stay home to relax and pack for the next day’s journey.
- Balik Kampung. We will usually go back to mummy’s home town from the 2nd to the 4th day of Chinese New Year. We visit mummy’s aunties and see more lion dances, we play by the beach, go to more temples, pay respects to mummy’s mummy, play fireworks by the sea and send lighted lanterns into the sky.
- Middle of Chinese New Year. Sometimes daddy invites his friends over and mummy cooks for them and the kids get to play host and hostess to other kids.
- Chap Goh Meh. On the 15th day of Chinese New Year or the last day of Chinese New Year, its time to meet mummy’s brothers and sisters to have a gathering or dinner and exchange angpows with all the nephews and nieces.
That’s it. We do this every year to create a routine and tradition for the kids so that they look forward to Chinese New Year and in doing so, we enjoy our Chinese New Year very much too.
Kids, when you are grown and have your own families, we hope that you will remember fondly and continue with this routine and tradition that you have grown up with.