A COVID-19 CNY: How 4 students are engineering new traditions this year
By Engine Room Posted 24day(s) ago Reading Time: About 5 minutes
Chinese New Year this year is looking very different for many of us across the country, with tighter restrictions on household visiting and muted lo hei greetings. With one of the biggest occasions of the year just round the corner, we asked some of our engineering friends how they plan to celebrate it or work around age-old traditions.
Hear from these four students as they share their celebration plans this year, and you might just pick up some useful tips on how to still have an ox-cellent CNY!
A quiet, family affair
From keeping reunion dinners simple to minimal visiting, everybody we asked agreed that festivities have to be taken down several notches. Instead, this CNY is a chance to spend more time with family.
For Joel Ng, a graduate from Nanyang Polytechnic (NP) with a diploma in Electrical Engineering, his family will have a reunion dinner with just a few close relatives and will go visiting only on the first day. They’d traditionally have a steamboat meal, but to reduce sharing of cutlery and utensils all round, his family is considering serving dishes in individual portions. They have also decided to use their SingapoRediscover Vouchers to spend a day trip out on a leisurely cruise around Clarke Quay!
Others, like Xin Ci, currently a year two Electrical and Electronics student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Darryl Ng, a Biomedical Engineering graduate from Temasek Polytechnic (TP), are planning to skip house visits altogether. Many of Xin Ci’s relatives are not in Singapore, so her family will be having a reunion dinner virtually with them.
An exception is Kaden Ching, a graduate from Singapore Polytechnic with a Diploma in Energy Systems and Management, who will not only be spending time with his family but also visiting one of his engineering lecturers with his friends - an annual tradition that has kept strong since 2019.
Plan early and go online for your steamboat needs
Singaporeans take their steamboat very seriously, and it’s no different for CNY. It’s full steam ahead for Joel, Xin Ci and Kaden, who plan their steamboat dinners up to a month (!) before.
Kaden makes sure to check his family’s trusty electric hotpot and plans a list of ingredients to buy at least a month before CNY. This year, all are jumping onto the online ordering bandwagon to ensure they avoid the supermarket crowds.
In the words of the SP graduate, “In the past, we used to spend one entire day purchasing all the ingredients for our steamboat dinner. This time, we realised the online platforms are running many promotions and free delivery deals so we took full advantage. Save money, save time, and save energy!”
He also confessed that his family members start trying out festive CNY cookies right after Christmas, so that they can buy their favourites when the occasion comes round. He is also a big bak kwa fan, and has taste tested at least three brands before landing on what he deems to be the best.
Putting a twist on traditions
Some of the most beloved CNY customs, like receiving angbaos, exchanging mandarin oranges and echoing auspicious phrases during lo hei will see dramatic changes this year, with less visitations and loud cheering disallowed.
Joel, however, refuses to let the new restrictions dampen his celebrations or his chances to huat. The NP graduate recommends not only putting out sanitiser at your doorsteps for visitors, he will be asking his family to use e-angbaos instead. He also has a fun approach to lo hei, and one he hopes to try out.
“We can jumble up the auspicious phrases, and have everybody take turns to queue up and assign a random phrase when it’s their turn. This way, just one person will be saying a phrase at a time, and you never know which one you’ll end up with,” he enthuses.
And why not? The pandemic has had an impact on many of the traditions that we all once knew, and there are no rules to changing it up in a way that still ushers in prosperity for the new year. If anything, COVID-19 has taught us that we can always troubleshoot and improve a situation, and that we must not be complacent in the hopes of having a better new year 2022.