“I Hate Chinese New Year!”

Why Chinese New Year Isn’t As Welcomed As You Might Think Of course there is all this beautiful red decoration everywhere, long cues of people changing their money to the rare “Chinese New Year Edition”, just to spread it sourly smiling between the greedy family members the next day. And there is of course the… Read more »

Why Chinese New Year Isn’t As Welcomed As You Might Think

Of course there is all this beautiful red decoration everywhere, long cues of people changing their money to the rare “Chinese New Year Edition”, just to spread it sourly smiling between the greedy family members the next day.
And there is of course the usual… no hold on…. there is no firework at the Marina Bay this year. Well is this maybe a sign of slowly but steady transformation? Did Singapore take Obamas punchline “The Change We Need?” by its words and made it the 2009 Chinese New Year celebrations new guiding theme?

Chinese man sleeping on bench in SingaporePhoto by Akuppa

Searching for answer and maybe some fake Obama masks I look over my shoulder and hear few people scream “Yes!”.
Those are the ones that also don’t visit their eldest family members anymore, but send them SMS and emails instead. Prosperity and Luck and the latest YouTube Hit attached in case it gets boring.

I look over the other shoulder just to be sure and see some more people nodding in agreement. This time its mainly old women that are healing their blisters from days of cleaning and cooking, being more then eager to skip the yearly drudgery this time… and the next 20 years if possible as well.

Aren’t We All Supposed To Be Happy?

The western world has long packed away the rest over firecrackers, your new watch has been adjusted to the 2009 rhythm and the dried fir needles have been finally cleaned off the living room floor, when the big boom is about to happen in the Asian world. Meaning Chinese New Year is about to ring in the biggest festival of the year.

And just like the western world has its typical Christmas dorks, seeing the yearly present hunt as another unnecessary evil and going for long walks in the snow outside, instead of singing Christmas songs with the family inside, there is the typical Chinese New Year dork as well. But what are the reasons? Lets see…

A Time For Family

Not only China becomes a state of emergency, whenever the lunar calender is about to change, but all little, big old and new China Towns around the world, in fact, all places where Chinese people live become a little bit lunatic, especially Singapore.

Where we expats usually see the Chinese New Year days in line with closed shopping mall doors, a colorful Chinatown and the artificial Chingay Parade, for the Chinese it means mainly one thing, many wonderful days with the family.

The whole bunch gathers together, all lost brothers and sisters flock to the eldest family members home to collect their share of the party and all female members of the family usually have one thing to share as well … not the latest shoe discovery or party gossip, no, a hell lot of work.

Chinese Family Reunion DinnerPhoto by yummiec00kies

I talked to friends who told me that it is not unlikely to have between 60 and 80 guests, all coming together at the oldest family members home to celebrate the Chinese New Year and as the traditions says, show their respect for the eldest.

But it also means…

  • • Organizing and cooking kilograms of fruits, meat and vegetables
  • • Baking sheet after sheet for endless amounts of cookies
  • • Decorating the home with kilometers of red lanterns and banners
  • • And of course, renewing the one or other thing, maybe some new carpets and rugs here and a new seating area there.

Everything needs to be perfect when the critics, namely the rest of the family comes for the sit in.

A Happy Holiday

Its not even unlikely that the wifes take their precious holidays off from work, not for some nice trip over the long Chinese New Year weekend, but three days before Chinese New Year, so they can finish all the preparations properly.
And for all the people working late hours, which are very often the people from the lower social classes, earning much less already, will just have to work through the night as well, at home, just to satisfy the rest of the family.

Money Money Money

But surprisingly this is not even the worst thing for the many Chinese New Year damaged souls, its the, not to be scoffed at prize, with which you have to pay for your precious family reunion.

Hong Bao or Ang Pow is the magic word that promises luck, prosperity and the new Ipod from Takashimaya. Many people actually get themselves into serious trouble, feeling and being committed to give out the little red inconspicuous packets to your not married family members and friends.

Again, this is tradition, and who wants to break with it just to be the Bogeyman of the family.

Bali It Is Then

For many the Chinese New Year has transformed into another commercialized event, ripping you off where ever possible and not leaving much space for the real traditions and original ideas of the fest.

So it is not surprising that many flee these days by going on a holiday trip and taking a time off from the supposed time off, Bali, Phuket, Krabi, Jakarta and Bangkok are just some of the places that will be packed with the above described Chinese New Year dorks. But who can blame them?

I personally like this time of year, simply because it usually gets as cold in Singapore as it can get, but if you are used to the tropics and you are just annoyed about your empty wallet and the blisters on your fingers, then i totally understand if you say…

” I Hate Chinese New Year”

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