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Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Colours of Chinese New Year

When I was old enough to buy my own Chinese New Year outfits, I always wandered why the elders in the family were so "loh tou" (Cantonese for old fashioned).

"Why did I have to wear red?" "Why can't I wear a refreshing green, a cooling blue or a classic black?" (Eeeeyeea! *grumble-grumble*)

The aunt's explained that black and blue is the colour of mourning. "You don't want to mourn all year round do you? Now Red, on the other hand will bring you you good luck and prosperity throughout the year."

"Gold is very important too. It too is the colour of prosperity. If you want to wear blues or greens, then at least try to ensure you have some gold on you." Advised the aunts. I remember feeling very important indeed as a little girl when my mum put on for me the little gold bangles, necklaces and anklets specially reserved for Chinese New Year.

Thats also the reason why visitors to your home will come bringing mandarin oranges ("kum" or "gold") and you must return some "kum" to your visitors as well. It is considered bad manners to go visiting empty handed and to let your visitors leave empty handed if they came bearing gifts.

Usually I am very confused about this tradition. Mr MG and I will usually stand whispering in the kitchen "Eh, what to give them back? They gave 8 "kum". Should we give back 8 as well? Should we put in some chocolates, some tidbits, some barbequed meat, some liquor, an angpow? Should the angpow be an empty one or must put in a dollar or two as a token? Is it bad manners to give less in return to your visitors? Will they be insulted if we gave more? etc etc.

Now I've come full circle. My little ones will be decked in red this CNY, not in the name of superstitions or pantang but rather to uphold tradition. Whats CNY without red? I've only come to realise how important tradition and culture is after becoming a parent, having taken these things for granted all this while. Its funny that only after I become a parent that I only start to understand the things my parents did for me. Thats the wheel of life, I guess. It goes on and on.

For now, baby and toddler don't argue back when they're dressed in red (poor things have got no choice. Hehe) but I will have my day when my children will look at me one kind and say "Mum! You're so "loh tou"!


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