Chinese New Year 2013 – Year of the Snake

One aspect I have always believed that the boys need to be immersed in is culture – especially their own culture. With each new generation, more and more of the “old ways” are being forgotten as we dispense with archaic practices in favour of modernism. In all honesty, I am not a stickler for old practices (see my thoughts on confinement practices and you’ll see what I mean) but I am all for cultural exposure to broaden our views and to foster sensitivity towards the cultures of others even if we do not believe in them nor practice them.

See some of the festivals we have exposed Aristotle and Hercules to:

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Chinese New Year is another festival they participate in (see CNY 2012, CNY 2011). In the grand scheme of things, I think Chinese New Year is about as big for the boys as Christmas is to some other families. They don’t get presents, but they do get money in red packets which can be traded at the toy shop for things they want so what’s not to like about it? To top it off, Chinese New Year also signifies sweet treats and junk food for Aristotle because there are a lot of tidbits lying around for visiting guests during the open houses.

For me, I think the most important aspect of Chinese New Year is for family and friends to spend time together rather than being bogged down by other commitments. Since most businesses are closed, there really are no excuses not to get together.

This is our first year in our own house, so Daddy went all out with the decorations. It really puts my Christmas decoration efforts to shame – almost every part of the house has some red decorative piece.

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One of the best places to go for economical decorations is China Town. We took the boys down so they could help choose the decorations they wanted. This year, they selected snake guardians (since it is the year of the snake) to safeguard their rooms.

CNY deco

Aristotle’s been learning about the story of Nian at school so he’s been determined to have lots of red-coloured decorations and lights to scare the nasty spirit away. He’s taken it so seriously that he rejects anything that isn’t red (at least in part). For instance, a new pair of pajamas was countered with: “I can’t keep that for Chinese New Year. It’s not red and it won’t scare Nian away.”  Right.

I confess I didn’t know the story of Nian until he told me about it. You can watch it on Youtube – there are several productions of the story:

The boys have also been participating in the Yee Sang sessions. Although they don’t really understand the significance of the mixing process, they really look forward to these sessions probably as an opportunity to makes a right old mess of everything – especially Hercules as he holds one chopstick in each hand and flicks everything all over the place in an attempt to “stir” the ingredients.

Yee Sang (also referred to as the Prosperity Toss) is a Teochew-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish, mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. It means “raw fish” but since “fish” is commonly conflated with its homophone “abundance”, consuming the dish is believed to bestow the family with an increase in abundance. Yee Sang is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.

They also have their own little Lion Dance costume – complete with t-shirts and Lion. The next thing is to teach them how to cooperate sufficiently to do the dance together without tearing the lion into two.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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