“THE” New Year’s round the corner
As you all know, I got stuck a little trying to start 2014. But, the Green Horse Year is coming in at a galloping pace and I’m all ready to catch it and hop onto the saddle. Heart Guy’s come back from Vietnam with the mandatory rice cakes and I put up the pickles a fortnight ago. The Peranakan pineapple tarts that all Singaporeans must have and Cheryl Lu Lien Tan writes so evocatviely about have been rolled and baked, all 120 of them! And the po-piah is all done and sitting in the freezer, ready to be thawed out for Reunion Dinner. It’s certainly not going to be the New Year of famine I wrote about in my novel As the Heart Bones Break.
All that’s left is for me to slide the good luck money into the red hong bao envelopes and I’m all set for visiting on New Year Morning.
Visiting, or bai nian, occupies most of the first day of the New Year. In the old days, it involved making offerings at the ancestral altar at the stroke of mid-night. We don’t do that in our family. But we do go visit all our elders, in strict succession, starting with my grandmother first and then my parents followed by other relatives then bosses and friends. There’s a strict etiquette to the visiting, including the colour of your clothes, the gifts to bring and the greetings to be used. You can read all about it here:
These old customs are fun. They also imbue a lot of meaning into the celebrations and we taught our children the “proper rules” from a very very young age. But there’s a risk we get too entangled in “what to do” and forget “the meaning” as the illustration shows and Zoong writes about in another of his “discovered” missives.
Bai Nian is very important
It’s the start of the New Year
We must be very partic’lar
‘Specially about grammar
Every New Year we go to Gramma’s
To greet her with the proper words
“Happy New Year” and “Please be happy” and “Don’t get sick”
Then Gramma will smile a big fat smile
And give us each a big fat smacky kiss
And our New Year Hong Baos too
Words make the world go round Gramma says
Words make the New Year we all know
Say the wrong thing at New Year time and … F A I L
No smiles no kisses no Hong Baos neither
Our New Year goes kaput!
Like I said
New Year’s very important
And in the New Year book
Gramma’s number one
Along with grammar too
Have you ever stressed your children out unintentionally with rules about “the rituals” and forgotten the true meaning of the celebrations… What did you resolve to do to prevent this in the future?