Chinese New Year

January 28, 2009

Catered food 2009
Catered food 2009

Growing up in Malaysia I have always looked forward to Chinese New Year.  Like most Chinese families, my family would gather during the holidays for the reunion feast, never mind that I grew up Japanese.  The feast was an undertaking usually done by the women in the family, where they would cook up and showcase their specialities.  As a child, I ate with relish, only to discover later, and perhaps with my palate getting increasingly sophisticated, that they weren’t very good cooks. In the later years cooking became a chore, especially to feed ingrates like us, the decision to switch to catering or dining at a local restaurant was made without much fuss.

We’d stock up on New Year goodies (biscuits, sweet meats, drinks etc), and mandarin oranges to exchange with vistors who’d come around during the festivities.  Usually half of these cookies and sweet meats would be gone by New Year, so usually the purchase of such confectionary we’d account more for the thiefs inside the house than bona fide vistors.   

In the past, we’d buy firecrackers and sky-piercers, and often lit them without getting away fast enough, and perhaps the earliest memory of ever getting an adrenalin rush.  At barely an arm’s length, the fireworks would start exploding or whoosh up into the sky, close enough to get burnt from errant sparks or to smell the gunpower. Later, the sale was understandably banned, though as children we couldn’t have understood it too well.   Chinese New Year was became all the more sedate because of it.

In recent years, Chinese New Year or any other holiday or memorial day, has lost its significance and lustre.  A natural cynic, I’d protest against the hallmarkization of Valentine’s day, and even see little sense in commemorating birthdays.  Religious holidays have no bearing on me whatsoever.  But it’s not entirely “bah humbug”, for I see the symbolism behind MLK day(not in Malaysia), or labor day, and I do observe mother’s day, and love the communal bond of a get-together like a Chinese New Year reunion dinner.

Yee Sang Yee Sang


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