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  • Writer's pictureJamie

Teaching Kids About Chinese New Year Traditions

Explaining the symbolism of each tradition

As society evolves, globalisation takes place, while everyone becomes more aware of festivals celebrated by different races and religion, many of our traditional practices have become simplified or have lost its significance.

Keeping to traditions or upholding them is more than a superstition, but a reminder of our roots. In Chinese, we have a saying, "饮水思源" (yin shui si yuan) - as we drink water, the source of life, we should remember its source.

Today, we are sharing a few Chinese traditions we keep to before and during the Chinese New Year. We hope you find them useful in explaining the Chinese traditions to your little ones!

To kickstart the Chinese New Year celebrations, we participate in spring cleaning.

#1: Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning is when the family comes together, wipe away dusts from furniture, discard spoilt appliances and recycle unused items. Spring cleaning signifies doing away with anything negative of the past and welcoming new beginnings.

"As a fellow parent, I would also take the opportunity to encourage my little ones to participate in task planning, committing to completing household chores as 'missions' and helping them see how they can contribute to the 'big picture' of a clean and tidy home to welcome the lunar new year!"

#2: Decorating the house in red

Putting up Chinese New Year decorations is a tradition that not only homes and offices keep to, but also shopping malls and public places with high human traffic. Chinese New Year decorations have a charm to give any place a festive look. According to Chinese traditions, the colour red symbolises good fortune and joy. By decorating the home in red, it is believed to welcome good fortune and joy into the home.

Decorating the home is a fun activity that can be carried out with children, allowing them to get creative through handicraft and suggesting areas in the home to be decorated.

I would usually gather my children and give them a couple of red packets to put together decorative pieces through craft. Last year, my daughter put together a lantern using steps she picked up at school! This year, I challenged her to come up with another masterpiece and tasked her to decorate a spot in the house. This is a wonderful way to bond, foster trust and teach children ownership!

#3: Reunion Dinner

Eating reunion dinner on eve of Chinese New Year is a tradition that many look forward to because the meal's usually a feast with goodies and delicacies enjoyed once a year. The reunion dinner symbolises togetherness as a family and joy - a time when love and respect for one another across all generations are affirmed.

Common reunion dinner foods include whole fish, whole chicken (including the head and tail) and abalone. Fish symbolises surplus and prosperity, a whole chicken symbolises completeness and abalone symbolises good fortune and abundance.

In today's hustle and bustle, it is rare a family gets to eat together frequently. Reunion dinners are great opportunities to remind my children about their family tree, the different terms of acknowledgement for family members of different generations and relations.

#4: Auspicious Greetings

During 15 days of the Chinese New Year, it is tradition to greet one another with auspicious words. It symbolises an auspicious start to the year.

A common greeting would be 新年快乐 (xin nian kuai le) - wishing you a happy new year.

Should the greeting be said to en elderly, it would commonly follow with, 生体健康 (sheng ti jian kang) - wishing you good health.

Should the greeting be said to a student, it would commonly be, 学业进步 (xue ye jing bu) - wishing you improvement in academic pursuits.

Should the greeting be said to a working adult, it would commonly be, 万事如意 (wan shi ru yi) - wishing you good luck in everything you do.

Should the greeting be said to someone in sales or doing business, it would commonly be, 生意兴隆 (sheng yi xing long) - wishing you prosperity in business.

And since it's the year of the Tiger, according to the Chinese Zodiac, here are some useful tiger-related auspicious greetings in Chinese!

虎年大吉 (hǔ nián dà jí) — Wishing you luck in the year of the Tiger!

虎虎生威 (hǔ hǔ shēng wēi) — May you have the vigour and vitality of a tiger!

龙腾虎跃 (lóng téng hǔ yuè) — 'Dragon soaring and Tiger leaping' (May you prosper and thrive in new year)

如虎添翼 (rú hǔ tiān yì) — May you be like a tiger with wings (i.e. doubly strong)!

虎年兴旺 (hǔ nián xīng wàng) — Wishing you a prosperous year of the Tiger!

#5: Yu Sheng

During Chinese New Year, it is common tradition to toss 'Yu Sheng'. It symbolises tossing good fortune with 'Yu' meaning abundance and 'Sheng' meaning life. Auspicious phrases are usually said during the preparation of Yu Sheng at the dining table and it is believed that the higher you toss, the luckier you will be!

Source: City Harvest Church

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