Written by Roseline Yang, Community Relations Officer
Since we had some of our staff and students sharing about their Christmas stories, we asked other members of our school community to share about their Chinese New Year story! We hope you find it interesting.
It started with Year 6 teachers sharing with me these fun stories:
“In my childhood, for Chinese New Year, with some friends, we would use a pair of big scissors to curl our hair, you know the type of tool the street cleaner uses to pick-up leaves on the pavement. Girls were usually very excited about it, as it was like dressing-up for the celebration! Now I know that it is not ideal for the hair as it is burning it.” Joan Shen, Year 6 Teacher
Let’s see how this is celebrated in Perth, Australia!
“ With a large population of expat Chinese living in Perth, Western Australia, the Chinese New Year is celebrated every year. In a city-centre adjacent suburb called Northbridge we have a “Chinatown” warren of restaurants and shops in some laneways off the main street (James Street). During Chinese New Year these laneways are decorated with even more lighting and lanterns than usual and on the day of Chinese New Year these decorations spill out onto the main street which is blocked off into a pedestrian mall so other Chinese restaurants and shops from all over Perth can set up street stalls and carts. Local Kung Fu schools perform dragon dances. All are welcome to come and sample the sights, smells and tastes of the celebration” – Erin Hardie, Interim Primary Library Teacher.
Quick intro about Chinese New Year Celebration by some of our YCIS Staff
“The Spring Festival, commonly known as the “Chinese New Year”, is the most important traditional festival in China. When I was a child, I liked the new year, because there were new clothes to wear. There were lots of delicious food, fun and money.
Usually before the Chinese New Year, the family began to get busy with cleaning and preparing a variety of special purchases for the Spring Festival.
During the Spring Festival, the children and their parents went to “worship the year” with their parents and friends, and the adults chatted. The children were happy to play games and fire bamboos.” – Eva, Regency Park Campus Nurse
“ There is a famous saying in Chinese that we say at Chinese New Year! One – Happy New Year, Two – May you be happy and prosperous, Three – Give me a red envelope (hongbao)! In China, it is a custom to give a hongbao. Since we were little, our parents and adults of the family would give us a hongbao to congratulate us for being one year older. In the past, birthdays were not celebrated. Everyone celebrated their birthday altogether at the Chinese New Year. Once we started to work, it was our turn to give a hongbao to our parents or grandparents to show that we had grown up and we were able to take care of ourselves. Then once married, we do not receive hongbao anymore as we have created our own family! This is our turn to give! At work, usually the boss gives his employees a hongbao to thank them for their hard work. This is just a custom that Chinese people have, the same way Western people give cards or presents to express their gratitude 🙂! ” – Bus drivers
“On Chinese New Year Eve, we offer donations to our ancestors. On the table, we display eight different meat dishes, which is for our ancestors to come eat. After the ancestors have eaten, it is our turn as a family to have dinner.” – Wu Ayi, Cleaning Ayi
“ Food is a big element of the celebration. According to your situation, you had more or less food on the table of the Chinese New Year table. However, what was the most important was to have dumplings and fried fish (yu-fish) – which is a homophone of yu-remainder to reflect the expression “May you always get more than you wish for”.
We loved the busyness of this festival with all the firecrackers, especially on the fifth day of the Chinese New Year to honor the God of Wealth. Nowadays, in Shanghai this is not allowed anymore because of air and sound pollution. The only firecrackers that are allowed are the electronic ones, but the sound is very low. Now, we are not even able to know when there is a wedding happening.” – Cleaning Ayis
“In my childhood, for Chinese New Year, we used to get some small but interesting fireworks. Children were usually very excited about it, I was! This was the happiest moment for me to play these with my friends.” – Hayes Han, Support Division
“When I was a child, on the fifth day of Chinese New Year, my family would turn all the lights on, hang the picture of the God of Wealth on the door, and set off the firecrackers downstairs. According to the Chinese custom, the God of Wealth will visit the loudest, lightest home and bring wealth to them.” – Junnan Chen (Kevin), IT engineer
“In my time, we used to get new clothes only for Chinese New Year. Every family invited a tailor to come to our place, because clothes were not available in the stores. Usually, it was material that our mom was re-using to make something new out of it. We were always very excited to see what we would get.” – Xiao Feng, Ayi Leader
“ I remember that every year on the night of Chinese New Year Eve, everyone in the family bathed in the leaves of grapefruit, meaning to wash away the bad luck of the past year and welcome the new year!” – Iris, ECE Nurse
“ I really enjoy Chinese New Year because it is the time to rest and spend time with the family! In our village all the young men would get together to prepare nian gao, a special cake for the festival. We had to prepare it from the very beginning: stirring the dough in a huge casserole, then mashing it to make it softer. Once a person was tired, the next one would come in to hit on the dough. It was hard work. Then, another team was making some smaller shapes, usually fish shape to represent the expression “nian, nian you yu”. And then, children would add the last touch, which was to put a red dot on it, to bring luck!” – Qian Shifu, Regency Park Campus Engineer
“ When I was a child, we never went to the restaurant. During Chinese New Year, we would prepare all the food at home. Therefore, we had to start very early to get prepared for this very important celebration that is Chinese New Year. In general, we had to start at least one month ahead to do bacon and put salt in the pork.
Some days before Chinese New Year Eve, all the adults of the family were busy making egg dumplings, fish, soy duck, eight treasure rice cake, etc. As all of these were the basic dishes that had to be on the dinner table of the celebration. I usually stayed in the kitchen observing the adults busy with preparing all these dishes, because they were also letting me taste some of it at the same time!” – Wang Yi, Assistant Supervisor of Support Division
“ In my village (xiangxia), our family all get together to go and worship our ancestors. We have all the same surname, because we come from the same ancestors. Mine is called “Yao”. We enjoy the time we spend together eating, drinking, playing. My favourite food is the one we cook in this huge pan that we can cook on the big fire. You would never find a similar taste as the hongshao rou (meat cooked with special soya sauce) and caifan (mixed vegetable rice).” – Yao Shifu, Bus Driver
“In my home town, every year for the Chinese New Year, the strict minimum to do is to get all the family together to worship our ancestors both on Chinese New Year’s Eve (also called 30th of the big day) and on the 15th day after Chinese New Year (called Lantern Festival). Every year, this is the busiest period of the year for the family: we will bring all the favorite food and things for our ancestors. When I was a child, what I enjoyed the most was to go to relatives to drink a special wedding drink, because as a child I could get a lot of hong bao! Even if I would then give then to my mom, I was still very excited and very happy to receive them!” – Vicky Ji, Library Assistant
“ When I was little, on the day of the Chinese New Year celebration, I would eat dinner extremely fast to be ready to get my grandfather’s hongbao. This was to wish us a happy new year and to stay in good health. My parents would always tell me: Once you have finished your food, you will be one year older, so you will have to study even better, ok? Dad and mum would also put some yellow soya beans in our rice. If you ate one of them, this would mean that this year would bring you even more luck!” – Anson Lu, Supporting Division, Supervisor (PD Campus)
“ My hometown is in Chongming. I remember that at Chinese New Year Eve, we had to welcome the god of kitchen. On the table of the kitchen, there was a lot of food and we burned incense. As soon as we were asleep, my mom put the new clothes next to my bed and a red envelop under my pillow. This way, on the first day of Chinese New Year, as soon as I was up, I could wear my new clothes and go to the temple to pray.” – Zhu Shifu, Bus driver
“For us, the most important is to be able to be with our family for this festival. If your family lives in Shanghai, this is quite convenient to go back home to celebrate the event together. However, if you are from another province and you need to stay here your wife and child come to Shanghai to celebrate the event with you!” – Century Park Campus Guards
“ For me as a child, Chinese New Year was the happiest festival of the year: I could get new clothes, I could get hong bao and I could see fireworks! For me as an adult, this is kind of a sad festival, because it may mean that this can be the last time I would see some members of my family.” – Laura Yao, Library Coordinator
“Although holidays haven’t started yet, I cannot wait to go back home. In my heart, Chinese New Year has the taste of home and love. It will allow you to re-charge your energy fully, adjust your state and be prepared to start a new year. The memory of the past year of the scene often emerges in the mind:
On Chinese New Year’ Eve, we would eat red date soup, clean the house very neatly and put the two posters on the door (chuanlian) as well as the word “Fu” which means happiness. We would display on the table all the special purchases we made for the Spring Festival. In the evening the whole family will gather to have a new year’s dinner. At midgnight, fireworks would start. The beginning of the year is to begin to visit friends and relatives, and children can collect red bags everywhere.” – Dana, Century Park Campus Nurse
Coming from a Chinese-background family, I already had some insights about the Spring festival but now I have a deeper understanding of why every year at that time, my parents were going to Chinese stores to buy a lot of Chinese food to display on the table as a banquet to worship our ancestors. We had to leave the door open so that their spirit could come in the house to eat. I recall it was also the time to visit all the relatives and friends and we used to receive many hongbaos. Adults seem to be all very happy and houses were usually very busy. What I enjoyed the most was when I was a college student and could bring my foreign friends to go and see the dragon parade visiting all Chinese restaurants and watching children performing kung-fu in the street. This was a very lively and busy time of the year in that 13th district of Paris, that is why I could not wait to see how this was celebrated in China itself!
Now, I understand that Chinese New Year is more a family village celebration than a whole city celebration. It also helped me reflect on the value of food, clothes, family and home. Thank you for sharing!