Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year is not just another Public Holiday...

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese lunar New Year, my family and I would like to send our best wishes to all friends and relatives and especially to our grand nephew Matteo in Switzerland, who is the newest addition of our tribe.

Chinese New Year which is better known as Chun Jie (spring festival) in China remains steep in tradition and is the most important festival on the Chinese calendar. And with good reason. Chinese New Year like spring season which symbolises the beginning of the year, and offers another fresh start in one’s life. In the same way that spring ushers a new season of growth and vitality in Mother Nature’s world, it heralds fresh hopes for happiness and prosperity among us.

While many modern Singaporeans, Chinese New Year are just another public holiday but with the hassle of organising family reunion dinners, visits to friends and relatives, exchange of gifts and ang pows (lucky monies) to the elders, young and unmarried members of the family. Personally, I would like to think Chinese New Year celebration as a time for reaffirming family and kinship ties and serves to remind us of the important position the family as a unit, occupies in our modern society.
The Chinese New Year is so deep rooted that train tickets are a prized commodity in China at this time of the year with virtually the whole country rushing home to be with their family in time for the celebration which is celebrated over a period of 15 days which begin today. For millions of Chinese migrant workers, the Chinese New Year is the only chance they get all year to go home and see their family. Such was the importance of the celebration that the biggest of human migration in the world had happened in China in the past few days. In the context of modern day Singapore, where there is no great distance to travel it would not be a big ask to visit family elders to show their appreciation and demonstration of love and respect that binds family members together. Kong Hee Huat Chye!


  1. As what Singaporeans would say in recent years as a form of greeting - HUAT AH!!!!

    1. Hi HW,
      Huat Ah!sound like a victorious battle cry :) Incidentally, I like the word "MUAR" or "Mung" word on the angpow packet in the photo. Anyway, A Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year to you and your loved ones.

      HUAT AH!!!

    2. Indeed it sounds like a war cry! We were even shouting that instead of saying "cheese" when we were taking group photos.

    3. True indeed, cheese = :) and huat = :0

  2. Hi buddy, your blog’s design is simple and clean and i like it. Your blog posts are superb. Please keep them coming. Greets!

    Budget Hotel St Kilda

  3. Hi Uncle Phil,

    I just got back from work. Yes I like CNY too and regard it highly. I wonder when I can celebrate it with my family again

  4. Hi asingaporeanson,
    As an Overseas Singaporean like you, I have my fair shares of working on CNY over the years. It's time of the year again, when thoughts of family and kinship are felt deeply in our hearts. This is the reason why I have organised a reunion dinner on CNY's Eve last Sunday, for a number of new migrants from Singapore spending their CNY away from their loved ones left at home. I am glad that you share the same sentiment as me, and together we share the spirit of being an Overseas Singaporeans and forever proud of our heritage.

  5. Replies
    1. Hi Lily,
      Our best wishes for a Prosperous and Happy Lunar New Year to you and your family. Your world famous blog is a point of reference for many of us especially overseas Singaporeans and Malaysians.
      Best regards from Downunder,
      Phil and family.

  6. Hi Uncle Phil, so glad you are keeping the tradition alive. I too have made a pact to keep this alive, for my kid. I have written about this too, if you want to pop over to my blog. I also salute your not cooking "hai sum". My mom cooks it every year...alas, I shall stick to pineapple tarts and kuih kapit.

  7. Hi Lady Lavender,
    Firstly, Let me wish "A Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year" to you and your family,thanks to our tradition, we have 15 days days to send our good wishes :) Glad to learn that you have kept the pact. Unless we keep the spirit and pass it to the future generation, we're to be blamed. So,please keep the flame burning.

  8. richard in rhode islandFebruary 17, 2012 at 12:27 AM

    uncle phil:

    belated, very, very belated, new year greetings to you and yours. as usual your post regarding the true importance the chinese new year, is spot on.

    as an overseas chinese singaporean living in rhode island in the usa, with no biological family within traveling distance, i am relegated to reliving cny reunion dinners, and first and second day new year celebrations in my mind.

    several years ago, my caucasian american partner and i decided to begin a new tradition here, we began having a traditional chinese 10 course "reunion dinner" (in quotations because it wasn't always held on the last day of the old year, but on whatever weekend day that was closest to the new year) and we invited my partner's family instead, after all family is family, and close friends in the area - and it's become an annual tradition that our mostly non chinese nor singaporean guests have come to look forward to.

    in 2011, i outdid myself, finding recipes online for and then baking singaporean new year treats, which included pineapple tarts (my absolute fav new year indulgence) as well as kueh bang kit and other cookies that i've always associated with the new year - and to top it all, i hired the brown university lion dance troupe from providence to come down to and perform at the restaurant where the celebratory meal was being held (the restaurant, btw, is owned by singaporean chinese).

    for this year's celebration, i was planning a steamboat party, but my only surviving 102 year old paternal grandmother passed away on january 8 and in accordance with chinese customs, i canceled this year's dinner - and as you mentioned in your post, the new year celebration is all about family and traditions, happy or sad

    because i had consciously chosen not to observe the new year (out of respect to my late grandmother), not only was i grieving, but i was also suffering cny withdrawal - but my one indulgence/consolation was that i made "long yuk" (i'm cantonese in case you haven't figured it out), most other singaporeans refer to it as "bak kwa", and i was pleasantly surprised - not having had that particular treat for about seven years, it was what i needed...the taste brought me back instantly to my childhood, to those shops on new bridge road that tempted us with their wafting, deliciously scented, wisps of bak kwa scented smoke

    yes, the chinese new year may be very commercial both in singapore and in urban chinatowns of america and even here in the small asian conclave of rhode island, but we should never lose sight of the true meaning of the 15 day celebration, as you so succintly pointed out in your post.

    thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks also for reading this somewhat lengthy comment and keep writing on your great blog

    richard in rhode island

    1. Hi Richard,
      Thanks for your greetings and likewise, we would like to send our best wishes to you and all your loved ones. Glad to hear that you have the same thoughts and spirit of being an Overseas Singaporean keeping our cultural and shared heritage alive. Please visit our new blog
      and comment.