A newlywed's guide to Chinese New Year

Nervous about the reunion dinner with your in-laws and all their kin? Don't worry.

Photos: ING Image
Photos: ING Image
31 Jan 2016

Photos: ING Image

Congratulations! You're married! Now you get to enter the less fun group of giving out money on Chinese New Year. Stressing out over how much to give? Nervous about the reunion dinner with your in-laws and all their kin? What if you accidentally break an important tradition that brings bad luck and immediately ends your honeymoon phase? Don't worry. Simply follow this newlyweds' guide for a successful Chinese New Year. 

Giving out ang bao's.
Giving out ang bao's.
31 Jan 2016

Giving out ang bao's.

You just got married, so no one's expecting you to break the bank here -- but you also don't want to seem cheap. Consider your budget and relationship with the person. The categories are: your own kids, your close friends' and colleagues' kids, nieces and nephews, and unmarried relatives. You could also show respect to your parents, grandparents and in-laws. They might be paiseh when the roles are reversed and you're the one handing them ang baos, but they'll definitely be touched.

Generally any amount from $8 to $100+ is acceptable (more if you can spare it), with the fattest ang baos going to your elders. It's better to give in even amounts as it's believed to bring good luck, with the exception of the inauspicious number 4, which sounds like "death" in Chinese.
 

Spring cleaning.
Spring cleaning.
31 Jan 2016

Spring cleaning.

Clean away all the bad luck from your new love nest to prepare for the New Year. When you lived with your parents, spring cleaning responsibilities were probably allocated to different family members so there was enough manpower. As newlyweds with your own place, it's up to you and your spouse to complete the task. Too busy? Hire a cleaning company.

If you don't have your own place yet and are living with your parents or in-laws, you and your spouse are expected to do your part. But remember not to clean on the day of the New Year or you'll be sweeping away good luck.
 

Joining the reunion dinner.
Joining the reunion dinner.
31 Jan 2016

Joining the reunion dinner.

The multi-generational reunion dinner on New Year's Eve (Xu Xi) can be joyful and rowdy, and you are absolutely obligated to join. A family that eats together stays together. How should you go about family dinners as newlyweds? As it's likely your first time celebrating such an important holiday with your spouse's extended family, be on your best behaviour because you're not just representing your spouse but your parents-in-law as well. This means not letting your annoyance show when three relatives in a row ask why you haven't produced offspring yet. Which leads us to the next point... 

Handling personal questions from well-meaning relatives.
Handling personal questions from well-meaning relatives.
31 Jan 2016

Handling personal questions from well-meaning relatives.

When you were single, Chinese New Year was a time when relatives interrogated you about your lack of love life. Now that you're hitched, you're being bombarded by a whole new level of invasive questions about married life. You just can't catch a break...
Chances are, your relatives have already gossiped about your new husband or wife. They've heard plenty and they want to know more. Try not to leave your spouse to fend for themselves during Chinese New Year gatherings; two is better than one when it comes to facing the crowd. You can brief your spouse on which relatives to be wary of, like your notoriously nosy aunt. At the same time, keep a sense of humour and know that awkward moments are a natural part of big family reunions. You'll live through them.

Returning to the wife's maiden home.
Returning to the wife's maiden home.
31 Jan 2016

Returning to the wife's maiden home.

Traditionally the second day of Chinese New Year is when married women visit their parents to pay their respects. Husbands, as tempting as it is to simply send your in-laws a Chinese New Year-themed LINE sticker and call it a day, as the new son-in-law it's much better to express your good wishes in person. Tag along with your new wife, if anything to show her parents how well you're taking care of her.  

Bringing gifts when visiting relatives and friends.
Bringing gifts when visiting relatives and friends.
31 Jan 2016

Bringing gifts when visiting relatives and friends.

Make sure you don't show up empty handed when dropping in on relatives and friends. Before you got married you probably made the rounds with your parents and they took care of preparing gifts for the host. But as newlyweds you and your husband are considered an official couple, so you're in charge of bringing your own gifts. Bring desserts, a box of cookies, alcohol if your host drinks, or fruits such as mandarin oranges and pomelos for prosperity and good fortune.

Hosting.
Hosting.
31 Jan 2016

Hosting.

As first time Chinese New Year hosts, you've got to get three things right: food, decorations, and ang baos if the guests have children. A Tray of Togetherness is essential, along with other sweets such as pineapple tarts, kueh bangkit, and nian gao to bring a sweet life in the new year. Dial up the festivity by hanging up couplets, paper cuttings and decorative firecrackers. Have the ang baos ready before your guests arrive so you're not scrambling to stuff bills in envelopes when they're there. 

Having a good time.
Having a good time.
31 Jan 2016

Having a good time.

It's Chinese New Year, a time to celebrate with family and friends. Enjoy the two consecutive days off, catch up with loved ones and eat to your hearts' content. It's your first time braving this important holiday as newlyweds and honestly, there are more traditions than anyone can wrap their heads around, so even if you don't get everything right this year, you've got many more Chinese New Years to go as married folk. Good luck! 

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