As Chinese New Year approaches, some people feel like it is a the start of a repeated cycle - the food (the weight gain), the ang pows (red packets) the people, the conversations, the words. Amidst the festivity, here's unveiling the softer side of CNY visiting.
1. Standard questions
One thing that’s a turn off for some people– questions from concerned and well-meaning (or nosey) relatives. Not just any questions, but these questions come about every year in a particular order depending on which stage of life you are at.
The standard list of (dreaded) questions:
A. If you are single
Question: Why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Still no boyfriend/girlfriend?
When your answer is ‘no’, relatives would act in disbelief seeing that you are very eligible. Most singles would think of an excuse, like ‘I’ve been busy.’ Relatives would then tell you how you need to set aside time to date, and how important it is etc. Oh well.
Suggested reply: Yes you would be the first person I would tell when I get a boyfriend/girlfriend.
B. If you are visiting with your boyfriend/girlfriend.
Question: You’re not married yet? When are you getting married?
Relatives would comment that they can’t wait to attend your wedding, and tell you that you should tie the knot because you are not getting any younger. Thanks for the pressure.
Suggested answer: Yes wait for our wedding invitation!
C. You are married and have no kids.
Question: When are you having children? Why no children?
Aunties and uncles would tell you that starting a family at a younger age is easier. They would point to their own lives and say how they are enjoying life now (in their 50s/60s) as their kids are all grown up.
Suggested reply: Yes we are planning.
D. You are married and have 1 or 2 kids
Question: Are you going to have more kids?
The reason to have more kids, as the older folks explain, is that it’s better to conceive at a younger age, and that kids need siblings to learn from and play with.
Suggested reply: Why not you give birth? Lol~
2. “Eat more, eat more.”
CNY visiting takes you from house to house. Everyone spends a good amount of time whipping up some dishes at home so you can be sure that you will be offered some food. It is very common to hear people telling you to ‘Eat more, eat more!’ everywhere you go. That’s great, except that you will feel stuffed most part of the day. Since it’s not too nice to turn people down, especially your elders, when they offer you something, it’s good to just have a little to accommodate them. Pace yourself with the eating throughout the day.
3. “Which auntie and which uncle?”
Especially for the younger generation, addressing relatives correctly is a challenge. Normally, people would just attach the word 'auntie' or 'uncle' in front of their relatives' first name, but rightfully in mandarin, there's a distinction. For instance, your dad’s sister and your mum’s sister are your aunties in general. However, for the Chinese, they are addressed differently. What makes it more confusing, is that the terms used to address your uncles’ spouses (generally categorised as your aunties as well) are different as well. Same goes for the uncles. For relatives that you meet only once or twice a year, this is tough.
4. “$ XX!” (Click here to watch how else “Har” is used.)
Singles gain the most monetarily since ang pows are given out to them by married couples. You might overhear the teenagers comparing, and complaining, about how much they've received over CNY.
5. “Wah, (you have grown) so big already!"
Because many extended families gather only once a year during CNY, it always seems to be a wonder how fast the kids grow over the year. To a kid or teen, the adults always comment on how surprised they are to see that they have grown so much, and without fail, ask how old they are.
Oh, and by the way, you might be hearing some people exclaim "ho seh" over CNY. This is because 2016 is the lunar new year of the monkey. In mandarin, the word monkey is pronounced as "ho". "Ho seh" is a Hokkien dialect term, which literally means, a good thing/occurrence.
Here's wishing everyone a healthy and successful year, full of ho seh! :)
Check out local festival markets: