We just celebrated Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year and Spring Festival. As always, the extended family – cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews direct or once removed, newly acquired in-laws and hapless souls soon-to-be absorbed into our fold — descends upon my mother’s house for the usual CNY lunch party. The menu is always the same and people have come to expect it — braised Teochew duck and porridge and a parade of pickles and other condiments to complement.
My mom is 82 but doesn’t look a day older than 65. She cooks up the entire lunch and waits for the 50 or so relatives to arrive. (My grandparents had lots of kids — 11 of them, which was quite normal way back then.) They start trickling in from late morning, amassing by lunch time. This year, they did not leave until dinner time. It’s a big party, and at CNY, it’s always a happy time and the highlight of my year.
This year, we decided to add extra pizzazz and dazzle to the party. My mother hired a lion dance troupe to pop in mid-afternoon when the party was in full-swing. (This is a popular custom during CNY in Singapore – particularly among ‘business people’.)
I’ve always loved watching the traditional Chinese lion dance. What excites me is the rich, deep, primal beat of the Chinese drum that reaches right into my heart. It is insistent, haunting, fiery. It makes me think of the immense history of our culture and civilisation, and it fills me up. I love watching the lions too. Yes, I know it’s two guys prancing around in a lion costume, but I am not so jaded or so cool to pooh-pooh it. I can suspend reality and see the ancient, mythical creature come alive. I love its savagery, colour, energy and the tradition it embodies. (If only these photos could capture the sound of the drums and cymbals, you may better understand why I wax lyrical.)
What’s more, it’s lucky and auspicious to have these lions come to your home or office, too. They bring good fortune ($$$!).
And so, we had the lion dance for the first time ever in the 45+ years my mother has been holding these parties. It was a great success and it put smiles on everyone’s faces. Even the most elderly got in touch with their inner child again. A bonus? The lions peeled some mandarins, as is the custom, and left us a ‘lucky number’ to inform our next purchase of lottery tickets.
Sharing lots of pictures here….(the man in the mascot costume is supposed to be the God of Fortune. Also a good icon for CNY.)