Happy Chinese (or Lunar) New Year to all my readers! Wishing everyone health, happiness and prosperity in the year of the pig!
Our family’s heritage here at Big School Kids, originates in China, and every year, Chinese New Year is a huge deal in our household. Chinese New Year is all about family, family and family, and celebrating the traditions that have been brought down through many generations. It is a fun, festive and joyous occasion for everyone. In Asia, Chinese New Year is a 15-day long celebration bringing the whole country together to celebrate. Every member of every generation will reunite and commemorate the joyful event together. However, living outside of Asia, I can say it is a quite different experience – without many generations of your family living closeby, the traditions and customs of Chinese New Year usually becomes simplified and toned down, as it is difficult to replicate the same type of festive atmosphere without the large crowd celebrating together as you would in Asia.
New Year’s Eve Dinner
So what did the family of Big School Kids get up to during Chinese New Year in Sydney, Australia? We, of course had our customary family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve with both sets of grandparents, to welcome in the new year. This dinner is considered to be the most important meal of the year. A delicious feast was laid before us on the dinner table, with typical Chinese New Year delicacies, all with auspicious connotations tied to them, and of course no new year feast could have ended without a serving of delicious sweet soup dumplings for dessert.
New Year Customs and Celebrations
As the celebration continues for just over 2 weeks, Mr. BSK and I thought it’d be nice to take the kids to see and experience some more Chinese New Year customs that were being shown and celebrated across our city. We wanted them to grow up recognizing what these events meant, and why they were important for us during this special time of the year. So off we headed into Chinatown, and first stop was the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour. Of all places, surely we’d find some Chinese New Year celebrations here? And indeed we did. There were some fun activities for the kids, and these definitely kept them intrigued and excited about why we were here (as the beautiful gardens just did not amaze them!). We only had time to try out the chinese zodiac animal ink paintings and craft-making (they made pig masks and pig chatterboxes) as we wanted to be off elsewhere to chase the traditional Lion Dances that were being paraded all around the city.
And in luck we were! We managed to catch two Lion Dance shows later on, one of which was performed practically right in front of us. Too bad, our 3 kids had not much of an appreciation for them and found them to be too noisy. We also tried to catch another tradition, which was the Dragon Boat Races (which actually has its own festival in itself, that occurs in the 5th Lunar Month of the Lunar calendar) but unfortunately missed out on all the excitement as they had just finished their race.
We finished the day off by watching our second Lion Dance and by then the kids were all “festival-ed” out and were ready to call it a day.
One final integral part of our Chinese New Year celebrations that I must mention is… the giving and receiving of Red Pockets! Chinese New Year = red pockets! It is customary for the older generation to give the younger generation a red envelope containing money (there are actually a few basic rules surrounding who should or should not receive them, when to give them out, how much money should be in them, etc – but that’d be for another post). It is actually not the money inside that is of the main significance, but the lucky red colour of the envelope, which is supposed to bestow good luck and happiness to the receiver. But of course, these days, envelopes come in a variety of colours, and for kids – many come with cute cartoon characters on them to increase the fun factor.
So, in a quick overview, this was how the BSK family welcomed the Year of the Pig this year. As I said earlier, this is nowhere near as celebratory or exciting as it would have been had we lived in Asia or had a large family here, but at the end of the day, our goal was to immerse our kids in whatever way we could, into this important Chinese tradition to help them understand why this is a meaningful part of their culture and background. Sydney already does an amazing job bringing the festivities into the society and sharing as much cultural experience as they could. One day, our goal is to take them back to their grandparents hometown and experience the “real deal” with the rest of our family and older generations. Not only do they have a lot yet to learn and experience about this important event, but so do I. It would be absolutely my dream to have our own version of Chinese New Year celebrations and for our kids to acknowledge it and pass it on to future generations.