Title image courtesy of Stephanie Wong.
If I were to list my top three favourite things about celebrating Chinese New Year, it would be:
- Pineapple tarts (Especially the godzilla ones half the size of my palm. Awesome!)
- Love letters (Also known as kueh belanda, rolled egg wafers, not those you write to a girl lah…)
- And of course, ang pows!
Speaking of money, Mum says I have to write this column to earn my pocket money. So let’s explore three customs behind Chinese New Year.
Why are oranges exchanged during Chinese New Year?
The word ‘orange’ and ‘gold’ are pronounced as ‘kum’ in Cantonese. To the Chinese, oranges symbolise prosperity. Good things are also believed to come in pairs. Oranges are given out in pairs to relatives and friends during Chinese New Year visits.
Why are red packets given out during Chinese New Year?
Parents, grandparents, elderly relatives and generally, newly married couples and close friends, will give red packets to young children for good luck. But no one can actually decide when an unmarried person should stop receiving one. If you ask me, just smile and be gracious. Take it and assure the giver that you’re working hard to get hitched! Next year if you see the same relative again, you can always say you’ve just broken up with the girl you dated, and will work even harder to get hitched.
Why do children wear new pyjamas to bed the night before Chinese New Year?
I’m sorry, I can’t find the answer in Wikipedia. Mum insists that we wear MATCHING pyjamas. She says we will bond as siblings. New clothes also symbolise a brand new start.
But I have another theory. Mothers have this thing about putting their children in matching outfits to ensure that when it comes to receiving ang pows, no one would miss out on their children! When you have three children dressed in matching outfits, think Bananas in Pyjamas, you can be sure they stand out in a roomful of kids.
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Hong Bao Na Lai! (Loosely translated: Happy New Year! Don’t forget the ang pows!)
About Amos Lee
Amos Lee is a 12-year-old toilet diarist. He’s the brainchild of Adeline Foo, a mother of three and a published children’s book author. Amos’ first book, The Diary of Amos Lee, I Sit, I Write, I Flush! won the International School Libraries Network's Red Dot Award for Best Junior Book in 2009. A best seller listed on the Straits Times’ Top Ten Children’s Books, The Diary of Amos Lee #1 and its second title, Girls, Guts and Glory, hogged the chart for 30 weeks! ‘Famous Amos’ released a third book in November 2010, I’m Twelve, I’m Tough, I Tweet! has also made the Straits Times’ Bestseller List. The last time Amos checked, it was No. 2 on the list.