Green & Green’s wonderful Operations Coordinator Nancy Wu is on maternity leave, enjoying time with her two children. She shares with us her favourite childhood memories of Chinese New Year, and what traditions she hopes to pass down to her children.
The Spring Festival (or Chinese New Year) is valued above all other Chinese holidays. No matter how far away from home, Chinese people always try to go back and reunite with their loved ones. During the festivities, they reconnect with family and enjoy relaxing at home.
The New Year’s traditional activities include: New Year’s greetings, decorating the house by posting spring poetry on the walls, hanging up new year pictures, pasting stickers on the window, playing with firecrackers, giving/receiving red envelopes, wearing new clothes, eating dumplings, watching the traditional dragon/lion dance, hanging lanterns, and much more! Although some of these traditions and rituals have fallen away in some of China’s big cities, the core event, which is family gathering, has been passed down from generation to generation throughout the country, and remains strong to this day.
When I was a child, I looked forward to Spring Festival every year! For me, it was special because school would be closed for winter holidays, I could go shopping with my mother for new clothes, and…most exciting of all….we would go to my grandma’s place and get together with all the relatives! There were six children of my generation, and we always had fun celebrating together. We are a big family and are very fortunate to get along very well!
As a child, the New Years festivities went as follows: on New Year’s Eve, we usually cleaned our house in the daytime to prepare and get ready for the upcoming year. The dinner on New Year’s Eve is the most important meal for most families, including ours, which is called “Nian (year) Ye (night) Fan (meal)”. It is common for Chinese families to prepare their best dishes and make a full table of delicious food for themselves. Some dishes are “must” for the meal. For example, we eat fish on the New Year’s Eve because fish has the same pronunciation as “remainder” which means you will save money in the coming year; most families make meatballs as they are round, and “round” in Chinese also means “family unite/gathering”.
After dinner, we together watched the most famous TV program in China: The Spring Festival Gala. It usually lasted from 8pm to midnight after the countdown. The most famous celebrities, singers, actors and actresses in China and from all over the world would perform on the program every year. This was the only day we could watch television for four hours continuously.
On the first day of the New Year, we used to wake up really late (because of last night’s TV entertainment). We wore new clothes and kowtow (bowed) in front of our grandma and grandpa. They would then give us red envelopes. Of course, the money was managed by our parents, but we were still pleased. The adults played mahjong together for the whole day and we, the kids, just ate and played, and ate and played, ate and played…
It was a holiday full of happiness. Now when I think about it, it is a sweet memory. Today, a lot of families don’t bother preparing food for themselves and have their New Year meals booked in restaurants. However, it still brings particular joy to me when I see a big family reuniting and sitting at a round table, eating, drinking, chatting and laughing.
I immigrated with my parents to Canada in 2000. From then on, it was not easy for me to join the New Year’s family meals at my grandma’s at home in China. However, the rest of our big family back home have kept the tradition. I have joined them twice in recent years and hope to return for New Years soon.
Now I am a mother with two sons and I have a small family of my own. Spring Festival is more meaningful to me because it reminds us of the value of family and beloved ones. I always get together with my parents and brother during the festival. On the New Year’s Eve we make telephone calls to China to send our greetings to all of our relatives. After dinner, my parents still give red envelopes to me and my brother.
I am delighted to pass on the same tradition to my sons. I hope they can understand the meaning of this festival and that it will always connect them to their culture and family.
The Chinese New Year will be upon us soon! I wish you and your family all the best in the Year of the Pig!