Happy New Year! Chinese or Lunar New Year in Asia is a BIG DEAL. Since we moved here, decorations have been popping up all over town.
Our first weekend here we saw some acrobats and drummers on our way home from the water park in Sentosa.
There are celebrations for a month! On Thursday the kids celebrated in school. We were told they could dress up if they wanted. The dresses are call cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress). None of the kids were sure they wanted to wear them (I was all in, they are adorable, cultural appropriation at its finest). Avery was the easiest, Mrs Sapna said they all dress up. Bought a cute dress at the tanglin mall one day while picking up groceries. Done! Liam and Ella were much more difficult. I spoke with Liam’s teacher who said the boys were usually 50/50 on dressing up. I didn’t have anyone to ask for Ella and middle school kids are so fickle… one of her friend said she was, the other wasn’t. Hmm. Finally the night before, they both decided they wanted to wear them. Off to great world city mall we went (where I had seen clothes for them at a pop up market a few days before). Liam ended up with a super cute, navy linen (which he loved, said it felt like PJs). Ella was adult sized!?! She chose a traditional red floral print. So cute!
Ella was already nervous. She wore her sweatshirt over top (at bus pickup it’s already about 80 degrees..). We got to our bus stop, and not one kid was dressed up. Horrors. At the last minute, one of the other 4th grade girls came running up in her dress. Still not ok. Ella had packed her uniform in her backpack just in case. Mom fail…
Parents were invited to attend the assemblies which I planned to go, but I was so confused about when they were. Some. Immunizations said 9, some said 10:30. Ella kept saying block 2 (whatever that means!). I left the house at 8:20 and figured I would just head up and grab a coffee and see.
I arrived exactly at 9, and sure enough there was an assembly. I will back track at this point. While sitting in the gym I had an epiphany. Part of my general confusion since the kids started school was, in my mind, they’re all at the same school. Which is true. But, they are each in a different sub school (lower elementary, upper elementary, middle). Each of these has a separate administration and are housed in separate buildings. Think 2 Burr’s and 1 Tomlinson. So while many things are the same, a lot of the scheduling is different.
Back to CNY! Liam’s assembly was first. It was awesome! The Chinese language teachers ran the assembly. They had a student group sing in mandarin first. The the acrobats came. Chinese New Year is the lunar new year or the spring festival. Each year has a zodiac animal associated with it. This year coming is the year of the rat. Sounds kind of gross to me, but they manage to make it look like a really cute mouse. In mandarin, Avery’s learning a very cute song about all the different zodiac animals.
So the first thing at the assembly is the lion. Liam was so excited to see lion dances. The lion is 2 acrobats, one small one in the front, the larger in the back. They wear a very elaborate costume that might be scary, except you can kind of see the acrobats in it so you know it’s really just people. I took a ton of videos..
The lion dances are a big deal, they are everywhere here and all over Asia. I’m not 💯 sure how they tie into CNY other than they are performed during celebrations. We still need to go see some others but I guess they are used as competitions between martial arts schools and the stunts get more and more elaborate. They were pretty tame here, but they did climb a pole! They also let the kids pet them which was cute.
There was also a dragon! I didn’t know it, but Avery told me later, that the dragon chases a pearl (the gold ball) and that’s how it knows where it’s going. Thanks Avery!
There was also a red lion, which I didn’t think was as fun as the yellow, but Avery said it was her favorite. Probably because it was when the kids got to dance as well.
After Liam’s assembly, Avery had hers. The same. I stayed for about half. Both she and Liam had huge smiles on their faces the whole time! Ella’s was after Averys. 3 schools…
There is a lot of mythology and superstition associated with CNY. You are supposed to clean your home prior to CNY and get rid of any clutter. The number 8 is also lucky. There is a tradition of giving Hong bao or red packets for CNY. These contain money or chocolate coins. The money should be new crisp bills and in a denomination of 8. I think the bus auntie is waiting for hers… Our kids think they are getting packets with $88 in them. Hmmmm.
The kids can explain it better, but a lot of the celebrations stem around a mythical beast called Nian. In ancient Chinese lore, The Nian needed to be scared away in the spring so the crops could be planted. The Nian was scared of the color red and loud noises. This explains the explosion of red everywhere and our wonderful nightly fireworks display over marina bay sands for the next 10 nights!!!
So far we haven’t ventured out yet for any of the big local celebrations, and I think China town is too much for us, we’ll wait to go that until after the holiday. Ryan and the kids have a lovely 4 day weekend for the holiday. We might brave the crowds at the river hongbao celebration one night this weekend and next weekend we might buy tickets for the Chingay parade. Right now, we’re enjoying the tourist areas being quiet (CNY is also a time for family gatherings, so not at the sights!) and a much needed long weekend. Originally I was sad we hadn’t planned to travel this weekend but now I’m happy. We’re all exhausted and there’s still so much of Singapore to see!
Happy Lunar New Year to all! 🧧 🧨 🎇 🌝