The Lunar New Year. The red attire. The firecrackers. The unmistakable upbeat music played in malls. The huge reunion dinners. The relatives you see once a year. And the ‘ang baos’ (red packets). The new year is undeniably the biggest and most important amongst the Chinese. And for me, it certainly is the most joyous celebration, mostly spent with family and close friends.
I am blessed with a close-knit family and relatives, and one that is uniquely ‘muhibbah’. We’re as multi-cultured, multi-enthnic and multi-religion as they come.
We do miss those who aren’t around to spend the new years’ with us any more – our beloved grandmother (we call her ‘mama’) who used to be the centre of it all. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather, who passed when I was a couple of months old, but I’m pretty sure he’s delighted to see us from the heavens, that we are still close-knit and laughing together every single year.
In between indulging in the scrumptious home-cooked food, thanks to my family of great cooks, there’s always stories and laughter. At reunion dinner, there must always be fish (‘yue’ for luck), prawn (‘ha’ for laughter), mushrooms, chicken. We don’t cook pork as we have a big Malay side to the family (and yes, we do celebrate Raya too!). The gathering of relatives mean stories, reminiscing of our naughty young days. While they are stories re-told and retold, we never get bored of hearing and talking about them. Every year. It’s almost as fresh it was the first time the stories were told.
And before every reunion dinner, there’s a tradition of tossing Yee Sang. The elders would mutter phrases of prosperity, abundance, good health and more as we toss the yee sang as high as we can around the table. It’s a beautiful mess and a noisy, loud affair.
We’re not the typical Chinese family, but strangely we’re very traditional in many ways.
Thanks to our elders, despite our modern, progressive nature, we still practise traditions that have stood the test of time.
From reunion dinner, to lou sang, to a tea ceremony on New Year’s morning where we serve our parents and elders tea while handing them oranges (and we also give our parents ‘ang baos’), these are things we keep alive as our part of our family culture.
And who can forget the 9th day of Chinese New Year?
Ultimately, traditions were embrace and practice nurture togetherness and we’re sure to pass this along to our future generation.
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Gong Xi Fa Cai everyone!