We don’t need much of an excuse to hang out with some awesome mums, but throw in some amazing fashion and the fun of dressing up the kids some sweet outfits for CNY… plus some festive treats and you have one fantastic way to celebrate Chinese New Year! We had a chat and tossed a lo hei with three cool mums from Singapore’s creative scene: influencers Charmaine Seah (Co-founder of boutique branding and marketing agency Elementary Co, Instagram fashion maven @eleventhhour and mum to Charlie Rose), Aarika Lee (singer, marketing director, co-founder of dress loan company RMBRTheDress and mum to Zola Mae and Ari Jon) and food stylist, photographer and mum to Alessandra, Bella Koh (no doubt you follow Bella as @catslavery on Instagram and dream of living the slow life with her). They let us in on some of their favourite Chinese New Year memories, what makes it so special now that they’ve got little ones, and how they approach CNY style!
HKA: Ladies, tell us about your favourite childhood memories of celebrating Chinese New Year here in Singapore…
Bella: “Feasting with the entire family with grandma’s dishes, made with love!”
Aarika: “My favourite memory (and it’s still my favourite thing about Chinese New Year) is kicking off the festivities with reunion dinner on CNY eve. We always have a steamboat dinner – literally the only time we bring the steamboat out for a family get-together. My mom has since started setting up the table outside so we a have dinner on the porch, which adds to the festive spirit of the season.”
Charmaine: “My parents always threw a massive open house on the second weekend of CNY: it was such a festive event and we got to see friends that we hadn’t seen for the rest of the year then. There would always be a lot of good food and all the kids would gather upstairs to play hide and seek and catching in the dark, which my brothers and I claimed to have invented, and called Midnight Rescue! ”
And what makes it so special now you have your kids to share it with?
Charmaine: “Carrying on the traditions that we used to and still practise with our parents – like the buying of new, brightly coloured outfits for the first day, bringing my daughter over to my parents’ place in the morning of the first day to bai nian with them (this involves kneeling in front of your elders with oranges in exchange for blessings and your angpow), as well as having her experience all the feasting and visiting that we do, which is A LOT! It’s quite a fair bit, but I love watching her soak it all in!”
Aarika: “I hope that Zola Mae and Ari Jon will look back on these occasions with fondness as they grow up too, so it’s extra important to me and special because we’re making new CNY memories with them. Chinese New Year was something I’d stopped being big on for years prior to their births…”
Bella: “I get to dress up Alessandra and make sure the family is coordinated! This year she’s more grown up and I can’t wait to see her do her thing and pay her respects to the elders with the mandarins. She loves sharing and might actually give her ang baos away!”
How do you make Chinese New Year your own? What’s your CNY style?
Aarika: “My CNY style is chill. I love the opportunity to teach the kids about this side of their heritage and while I used to complain that there was nothing to do during CNY when I was younger because everything would be closed, I completely embrace the opportunity to take it easy now. These holidays are for staying in with tubs of CNY goodies (we do not skip out on that!) and watching movies after a quick round of visits to our elders. One thing we really look forward to is joining one of our friend’s CNY parties for the lion dance that takes place. The kids love it, and so do we.”
Bella: “We keep it simple in the house with a single stalk of cherry blossom on our dining table. There isn’t much red going around. Mandarins sit prettily in my marble bowl. We also serve up heathy raw nuts and dried berries to our guests. Colour-coordinated outfits is how we do fashion for CNY!”
Charmaine: “As I mentioned, our family is big on wearing bright colours, preferably red, on the first day of CNY. The other thing we’re big on, and maybe it’s because we’re Peranakan, is feasting. So CNY is a time when our grandma’s and great-grandma’s treasured recipes get whipped up in the kitchen and we stuff our faces with the best curries, stews and buah keluak!
Fashion credits for top image:
From left: Bella wears Shanghai Tang Coat and shirt dress and Atelier Swarovski for Lanvin earrings; Alessandra wears Seed Heritage dress (branches in Wisma Atria, Parkway Parade and Vivo City); Zola Mae wears Le Petit Society dress; Aarika wears her own head scarf, Shanghai Tang dress and Chinoiserie Blu Bamboo 1 Square Collection jewellery; Charlie Rose Wears Seed Heritage dress; Charmaine wears Shanghai Tai coat and shirt dress; Apple watch and Atelier Swarovski for Lanvin rings.
Special thanks to VLV for the Chinese New Year feast!
Photography: Darissa Lee; styling: Zin Catell and Skye Marsden