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8 CNY Things You Used To Do As A Kid Besides Asking For Angbaos

CNY things we used to do that we’ve now outgrown

From trying to stay up past midnight so our parents would live longer to opening our angbaos in front of our relatives, these are some of the things that defined Chinese New Year back in our childhood days. And before we know it, we’re now either giving out angbaos or thinking of witty comebacks to deflect the “BTO already?” questions.

Take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about celebrating CNY while we were still wide-eyed, curious kids. So here are 8 things you used to do as a kid that we’ve since outgrown – as much as you’d hate to admit.

Check out our articles on other uniquely Singaporean traditions that we do:

1. Trying to stay up till midnight so your parents would live longer

As someone whose bedtime was always at 10PM sharp when I was young, chu yi was always a breath of fresh air as it was the only day in the year we were allowed and even encouraged, to stay up past bedtime

CNY traditions
Falling asleep in 3..2..
Image credit: Deborah Gan

It was a part of Chinese tradition – the later you stayed up, the longer your parents would live. And being the naive kids we were, my brother and I were so afraid that dozing off early would result in our parent’s premature demise – but we definitely felt grown up for going to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

2. Getting scolded for trying to open angbaos in front of relatives

CNY traditions
Though I wasn’t old enough in this pic to open any angbaos by myself
Image credit: Deborah Gan

As kids, many of us can look back on fond memories that involved getting an earful from our parents for immediately ripping our angbaos open just to check how much they contained – the concept of ‘being rude’ was something that we somehow never understood.

We’d then make a mental checklist of our favourite aunts and uncles who gave us the most amount of money, before hesitantly handing all our red packets to our parents for safekeeping.

3. Making DIY decor from angbaos in school

CNY traditions
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DIY fishes, lanterns and flowers – these were some of the angbao crafts that were always a part of art lessons back in kindergarten and primary school that warranted us to bring in old and unused red packets.

It was always enjoyable attempting to make your work of art remotely similar to your teacher’s handmade example, until you realise that your arch nemesis’ CNY art piece looks ten times better than yours. Just me? Ok.

4. Playing with sparklers

CNY traditions
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Aside from getting “free” money and bingeing on unlimited snacks, another thing many of us looked forward to during CNY as a kid was playing with sparklers with our siblings and cousins – we can’t forget the crackling sound sparklers would make when first ignited, that was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.

And kudos to you if you were able to hold two in each hand – you were officially one of the #coolkids as it wasn’t an easy feat back then.

5. Watching CNY countdown shows and MVs when visiting 

CNY traditions
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If you’ve done your fair share of bai nians during CNY in the past, then you’ll probably remember the yearly CNY countdown shows and MVs blaring in the background on the TV screens at your relative’s houses.

Cue the Feng Shui master’s yearly predictions and Channel 8 artistes in bright red costumes singing along to the iconic gong xi gong xi and he xin nian – a common sight that will always be etched in our memories.

6. Picking out only the crackers and salmon bits of Yusheng

CNY traditions

It’s a known fact that kids and vegetables don’t come together, so don’t expect them to come running to you when offered a bite of radish, carrots and cucumber. A redeeming factor though, are the crispy crackers that are unanimously a favourite, on top of salmon pieces if your child is an early seafood lover.

I remember my cousins and I hastily picking out the crackers and salmon as fast as we could before it ran out, while avoiding the veggies at all costs – an acquired skill that soon became useful for every CNY gathering up till today.

7. Not allowing us to wear CNY clothes on chu xi 

CNY traditions
My brother and I all ready for chu yi visiting!
Image credit: Deborah Gan

Each time CNY rolls around, it would mean time to go shopping with your parents for brand new clothes. Whether it’s a cute pink dress or a maroon shirt that you think you’ll look swag in, you’d be counting down to the day you can show off your new CNY ensemble to your relatives and cousins.

But don’t hold your breath hoping that your parents would let you wear them on chu xi a.k.a. the eve of the lunar new year. Our new outfits would have to wait till CNY itself, as it’s all about fresh starts and clean slates for the new year. Thus, donning them a day before would be deemed inauspicious. 

8. Wearing traditional costumes to school’s CNY celebrations

CNY traditions
Throwback to when our parents snapped 1,001 pics before sending us off to school
Image credit: Deborah Gan

CNY celebrations in school were a godsend as they meant an early dismissal, all while being able to come to school decked out in your own clothes which was a nice break from our usual school uniforms. This would be the time when our parents would scour Singapore for the best cheongsams and changshans for us to wear, in huat colours of red, pink and orange.

It was always nice seeing everyone donned in CNY attire regardless of race, and the exciting performances organised by the school that we looked forward to watching on other occasions too, like Hari Raya and Deepavali.

CNY childhood traditions we used to follow

CNY traditions

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve outgrown these eight CNY things that you used to do as a kid or simply no longer believe certain superstitions. Chinese New Year will always be a momentous occasion to pay respects to your elders, catch up with relatives and feast on CNY snacks – all worth the calories though.

Gear up for CNY by checking out our articles here: