Penang, Malaysia

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year – 年年有餘 (nián nián yǒu yú)

On the 12th of February 2021, less than a month from the time of writing, Chinese around the world celebrate Lunar New Year or the Spring festival.

A big part of the celebration is the night before the actual day, affectionately known as the Reunion Dinner, where the whole family gathers for one big meal. 

At the stroke of midnight, fireworks erupt to scare away the evil spirits.

Modern-day Chinese families usually have steamboat with food cooked in chicken broth/stock.

With the MCO implemented in Malaysia, children overseas and out of town will probably not be able to partake in the ritualistic Reunion Dinner.

Perhaps the Grab delivery man can now deliver “ang pows” (red envelopes filled with money)  from their married uncles and aunties for a fee. A RM 10 angpow will be delivered and the kids only receive RM 2 🙁

With the advent of video-conferencing technologies and stable broadband connections, the likely scenario is that families will meet virtually on Zoom. Like, “Zoom Hey Fatt Choy!”

Personally, Chinese New Year is also the only time where I pick up new clothes. Traditionally, the Chinese will buy new clothes, new handphones, new houses, new cars, and a new life (maybe),

Facebook and Instagram will erupt with family portraits, beautiful poses of their new clothes, and ang pow packets. Since 2020 was the year of TikTok, look out for TikTok dances and skits.

Gambling is a big part of CNY celebrations too. Those of us who are adults but not married, use them all to gamble. The winner doubles or triples his money, and the loser downs cans of Tiger and Carlsberg beer as punishment (ok, I made that up)

It’s fun to note that supermarkets have fierce price wars for their cartons of beer. Sometimes, the big guns such as Tesco will undercut their competitors, selling at below cost!

Pork and fish are hard to find during the CNY period. I remember my family would reserve and buy their meat a week in advance, storing it in the freezer for later use. If your family didn’t have to do that, it’s probably because you have a good relationship with the fishmonger or that you are well-connected!

One thing my parents taught me is to say nice words and wish for positive things during CNY. It is rude and against tradition to speak of evil things and thoughts. We must be careful not to sweep the floor as we will be “sweeping the good luck away”!

Traditionally, a married woman will go to her husband’s parent’s home for the reunion and the first day of CNY. On the second day, married daughters return to their side of the family. Due to the distance and traffic jam headaches, it’s more practical for the CNY celebrations to happen on the son’s side one year and the daughter’s side another year. 

By the 3rd day of CNY, families usually go to the shopping malls to admire the decorations or to watch a movie. Our family has a recipe where we take leftovers from Day 1 and re-cook it to a new soup dish. The main ingredients are duck meat, roast pork, salted vegetables, turnips (leftover) and some dried chilli.

年年有餘 (nián nián yǒu yú) means “May you have abundance”.

Art / Edited by: Garu Rumon