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An A-moo-sing Chinese New Year

By Chloe Kwek (20J18) and Hannah Soh (20J18)

“Happy Moo Year!”

Puns like these must have come up whilst scrolling through your Instagram feed during the Chinese New Year period this year. After all, it is the year of the Ox!

It has not been all that long since the festive season -- it merely began around a month ago, on the 12th of February this year! We witnessed the end of Chinese New Year on the 26th of the month -- on a day known as Lantern Festival Day, or as some may know it - 元宵节 (yuan xiao jie), meaning “first night of the full moon”.

This holiday is definitely one that many look forward to annually, since it not only brings families together on a joyous occasion, but also gives us a long weekend to get proper rest.

Needless to say, the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, meaning that many rules and regulations had to be put into place to ensure citizens do not compromise their health and that of others, even during the festive season. For instance, you must have heard of the infamous eight-visitors-per-household rule, or perhaps the lesser-known no-shouting-during-yusheng guideline.

To find out more about how RVians celebrated this rather special Chinese New Year, we interviewed various students, teaching and non-teaching staff in RV!

Our Principal Mrs Teo as well as our Vice-Principals posing during the lion dance performance! (Photo courtesy of River Valley Photography Club)

RVians definitely celebrated this festive o-cow-sion quite differently.

Cherianne Ng of 1A shares, “For the previous Chinese New Years, we would go to a Chinese restaurant to eat our reunion dinner. However, because of Covid-19 this year, we had to eat catered food for our reunion dinner at my grandmother's house. Personally, I thought that the food this year was not as good.” It unfortunately but certainly is inevitable that our yearly CNY traditions have changed this year.

Because her family is in Malaysia, Cara Chieng of 3F finds that celebrating CNY here in Singapore this year doesn’t quite feel like home. However, she still appreciates how her teacher mentors and friends tried to make it as enjoyable as she could. We hope she gets to visit her family again soon!

On a brighter note, Mr Victor Kwan, our very own school librarian, talks about how he video-called his relatives to conduct the ‘visitation’ virtually rather than physically. “In the past Chinese New Year [periods], it was very rushed because we had to visit many houses. Now, in a way, we have more time to rest. No doubt, it’s very dull but it’s still a good break!”

Similarly, Mr Ang Mia Lee mentions that he got to spend valuable time with his family members, having reunion dinner, watching TV shows with them, enjoying good food and chit-chatting with them deep into the evening. It truly is heartwarming to witness the spirit of CNY being kept alive even this year!

Bull-ieve it or not, different people felt differently about the restrictions this year.

Under these rather unique circumstances, RVians are bound to have different reactions to the rules and regulations put in place.

Cara shares that she did not really celebrate CNY this year due to the pandemic, especially since she could neither visit her friend's house nor go back to her home country. “At first I was really disappointed but then my friends and I decided to just stay in the hostel.”

Likewise, Cherianne feels sad that she could not meet her extended family. “Because of the safety measures, we could not meet like in previous years at my grandmother's house.”

On the other hand, Mr Kwan finds that it actually isn’t so bad - for him at least! “We still got to see each other, although the whole atmosphere is different because it’s quieter. It didn’t really feel like Chinese New Year but just another weekend or holiday.” This definitely left him more time to rest and recharge!

Furthermore, when asked what he felt about the restrictions, Mr Ang finds the restrictions necessary to protect our community from the severe effect of social meetings during the festive period. He even feels that “it did not affect [his] family at all.”

In the moo-d for food?

The restrictions freed up a lot more time for recreational activities -- and that definitely includes making food, which Cara cow-incidentally finds is the highlight of CNY! She fondly recalls that her aunt makes the best red wine mee sua, and it is one of her family's traditions to visit her home first and enjoy her mee sua every year.

Besides that, Mr Kwan also excitedly shares that he made his own bak kwa this year - a delicious, yet unfortunately rather expensive Chinese dried meat snack. However, this is exactly what inspired Mr Kwan to make it himself, claiming that it is “very easy [to make]”, and that its taste is similar to the bak kwa from Bee Cheng Hiang, a popular Singaporean company that produces Chinese-style foodstuffs.

Why not try making some delicious (and cheap!) bak kwa at home?

If you’re craving this delicacy now but unfortunately ran out of your supply at home, not to worry! There are plenty of easy-to-make recipes available online that you can try out with your family members.

Despite their differing responses, there is a cow-nsensus among these RVians that the meaning of CNY has not changed much from previous years.

While the safe-distancing measures may have dampened the festive spirit a little, our interviewees definitely found ways to adapt to this new normal, ensuring that the true meaning of CNY continues to live on.

When asked what CNY means to her, Cherianne replies, “CNY holds a lot of fond memories for me. It is one of the only times when I can meet my extended family and eat food I only eat once a year, for example abalone. It's a time of joy and fun for me. Even though there is Covid-19 this year, it still has the same place in my heart.”

Similarly, Mr Ang shares, “CNY to me is an important time of the year to be reunited with my family members, and for us to share our care and concern for each other. It has certainly not changed in light of this pandemic.” In fact, he believes the pandemic has helped to keep his family even closer together!

Lastly, Mr Kwan offers a more introspective take on this issue. As mentioned previously, he video-called his relatives instead of physically visiting their homes this year. This experience showed him that no matter how challenging a situation may seem, one can always adapt and find new ways of doing things.

It truly has been a rather a-moo-sing Chinese New Year.

We have to agree that Chinese New Year may have been pretty different in terms of how it had been much quieter than before. Yet, at the same time, the visiting restrictions instead gave us more time to recuperate from our hectic daily lives, and encouraged us to cherish those closest to us more.

Regardless, all of these had not stopped RVians from keeping in touch with their relatives and loved ones like in previous years, truly bringing out the spirit of Chinese New Year!

Indeed, every cloud has a silver lining -- it is up to us to make the most out of a less-than-ideal situation!

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