新年快乐! Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! Happy Lunar/Chinese New Year to everyone, as we wave farewell to the year of the monkey and greet the year of the rooster. I will admit that with everything going on in American politics, I have felt a weird form of “survivor’s guilt”. I feel bad posting about normal every-day life, because it feels like doing so makes my (personal) posts on social media disingenuous. I even felt a little bad escaping the political scene for awhile by going for a two-hour hike on Sunday to help clear my mind. But Chinese New Year is Singapore’s biggest holiday—think on the scale of Christmas here in the West, or even bigger—so we took the time to celebrate this weekend with some good friends. It was a good reminder of the beautiful people who live in our city, the lovely talent present here, and the warmth that comes from traditions, family, and friends during the holidays.
In past years, we have tried traveling to East Los Angeles where a lot of the Chinese New Year festivities are held. It’s pretty crazy, and super packed! This year, we decided to check out a local festival happening at the Santa Monica Place, and we were so glad we did! We enjoyed a beautiful music duo, a Korean Fan Dance, and a Lion Dance.
There were even stilt-walkers, which Junwen informed us were not traditional. The man is definitely dressed like a rooster. We think the lady is just dressed as a lady, but we slightly wondered if they tried to give her a costume that had hints of a chicken.
It was neat and exciting when the Lion Dance began, because the drums and cymbals sounded just like what we’ve heard in Singapore. The Lion Dance is performed not just at Chinese New Year, but also whenever something good happens that you want to celebrate and wish luck for. For example, when a business opens. The below movie is a segment of the dance when the yellow lion took a solo while the red lion greeted the crowd.
This little boy was funny. Junwen said that he is used to seeing this character in Singapore help the lions perform tricks. For example, the boy will throw “candy” into the lion’s mouth, and then the lion will spit out something beautiful that the person inside has transformed it into. This little boy just walked around waving his fan at the lions’ butts and faces.
This part was a little neat, when the lions opened scrolls to wish us new year blessings and to tell us they loved us.
After the performance, we went to take our pictures by the photo-op area.
After enjoying our time at the Santa Monica Place, we went back home with our friends to enjoy delicious hot pot, or steamboat as they call it in Singapore. If you haven’t heard of hot pot, all you need to imagine is a big bowl of broth heated by a hot plate in the middle of a table with TONS of fixings that you and your family and friends can enjoy. We usually put in different vegetables, meats (like pork belly and beef strips), fish cakes, mushrooms, and noodles. Everyone sits around the table and it’s a continuous process of putting more food in, taking it out, eating it, and putting more food in again. It’s actually super healthy, both because the items that you cook are healthy AND because you have the chance to wait between portions as the new batch is cooked. Meanwhile, all the flavors from the fixings seep into the broth, creating a delicious soup that is perfect for a cold day!
All of these fun events took place on Chinese New Year day. On Chinese New Year Eve, we skyped with our family in Singapore and presented our parents with two oranges. This is a tradition that Junwen grew up doing. You take two oranges, begin the blessing with “Papa” or “Mummy”, and then give them blessings and well-wishes for the new year. If we were physically together, we would give each of them two oranges. Because we are speaking via skype, we hold them up to the camera as we speak our blessings and well-wishes. Part of the trick is that these blessings and well-wishes are given in Chinese, so every year I practice the blessings I want to give before we call…and almost every year I get nervous and slip up. They were so kind, however, and told both of us that our Chinese was improving. 😉 Afterwards, Junwen’s younger brother did the same for us. (He can give the well-wishes in English, though. 😉 ) I asked if he would no longer have to do it once he got married. Like a lot of these traditions, the answer was, “We don’t know, we’re just making it up as we go along!” ^_^
Even my parents like to participate in the holiday. My sweet mom has always been interested in learning about different cultures and passing that education on to her daughters. I still remember reading books at nap time that taught me about different cultures and traditions. (For example, the story of the Three Little Pigs as told in Hawai’i, in which the big bad wolf was a shark instead. Or the African Folk tale called, The Vingananee and the Tree Toad…of which I can still recite some text!) It has come at no surprise, therefore, that she would immerse herself in her son-in-law’s culture and send us red packets each year. Red packets are like Christmas gifts for Chinese New Year, and are envelopes filled with money that are given by the adults to the children. (Usually, you only get them when you are single, but we will still gladly receive them! ^_^)
As always, the holidays remind us just how much we love our family and friends. Hope your year is full of health, happiness, and love!
Did you do anything to celebrate Chinese New Year?