Chinese New Year come and go every year.... And besides how much Angpao we all get, to be frank nobody really bothers about this festival anymore. To me, this years Chinese New Year will be the most memorable one for me, for it will be my last Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner with my family.
No, I'm not dying yet, I'm will be getting married. In Chinese culture, girls who are married are considered to belong to their husband's family. Hence, this will be my last year having cleaning, decorating and having reunion dinner with Chua family.
So, how does the Chua family celebrates Chinese New Year?
Our celebration evolved gradually. Of course, the most fun of the Chinese New Year happens when I was younger, especially before Akor Akien got married. Akor Akien used to be the leader in making Chinese New Year cookies and delicacies - such as Kuih Bahulu, Kuih Kapit, Pineapple tarts and sometimes nyonya kuih. The children will follow her around, in case there's spare for us to eat. nyehehe...But then, after she left, no more cookies were made in my kampung house. #sadstory
Well after making cookies, all of us will wash up the kitchen, car porch and wait for the reunion dinner. Our home chef is Aunty Irene, and my mom usually acts as her assistant. They would start preparing cooking materials from 6am. (cutting, washing + marination). What's my role, you ask? I am usually in charge of sweeping the floor, mopping and wash toilets. My sister, Wern is my helper.
Next comes the home decoration part. We used to buy additional decorations for kampung, but nowadays, we prefer to cut costs by DIY. After all, some decorations can't be reused (especially those Chinese Zodiac ones).We don't usually decorate much, because later after CNY, it's troublesome for others to remove the decorations.
As the clock struck 6pm, everyone of us have to bathe and wear clean, fresh clothes and prepare for our sumptious reunion dinner. Before dinner, the food will first be served to pray, and seek blessings from God. This is where all the good food like chicken, duck, pork, fish, prawns, vegetables and a soup comes. Our reunion dinner has become simplified over the years, there's no more abalone, fish maw, scallop, or sea cucumber (due to the price) for the reunion dinner. Instead, during the 2nd day of Chinese New Year, we will have a BIGGER reunion dinner when all my aunties and cousins come to visit.
After that we will linger in the hall, then wait for my Grandpa to call to help him with his Angpao. It was a fun experience because us, kids was so excited helping grandpa to package his angpao. He will instruct us to put RM2, RM10, RM50 and RM100 into red packets. At the same time, we all prayed we can get RM50 or RM100 angpaos on the next day. Anyway, we usually only get RM10. At most RM50 from grandpa for being good kid.
After helping out with the Angpaos, my mom and Aunty Irene will start preparing fruits for prayers. When my grandma was still around, she will be in charge of this department. My grandma was a pious Buddhists, and she was really particular with tradition and prayers. Fruits are also to be wrapped with a red, decorated paper. Usually we prepare pears, oranges, pomelos, pineapples, and apples. Each tray has to fit 5 small fruits or 1 big fruit. Why so? Seriously, I dont know. When grandma was around, we prayed the whole night. As in, everybody CANNOT go to sleep before praying (compulsary), and incense have to be replaced every 1 hour until morning. I don't remember staying up all night, so I must be the one snoring away while grandma took care of the incense. But nowadays, we don't practice that anymore, we just pray, then go to bed.
Praying session starts at 11pm. So, while waiting for praying, we will have minum session. *kekeeke* while watching TV. Gambling has never been a Chua family tradition. Seriously, over my 26 years of Chinese New Year there, we never had gambling sessions. We play cards, but never involved money. Our favourite card is usually UNO. Days passed and children grew into adults, nobody seems to be interested in cards already.
Woke up the next morning and dress up to the nines. It's day 1 of Chinese New Year! We will pray first, and then lim kopi (hokkien term for breakfast), and then we will serve our elders a small cup of tea. With this tea, we wish the elders good fortune, health, prosperity, happiness and wealth, the elders will drink up the tea and wish us study hard and success, while giving us Angpao. Angpao is really NOT that easy to get, because you have to think of creative wishes for every aunties and uncles! But this tradition too, had been simplified. Grandpa couldnt drink tea anymore, and kids =.= playing computer whole night, cannot wake up early to serve tea together and breakfast together. I really like this culture and I hope one day I can revive tea-drinking ceremony for my home, as this culture taught me respect in the family.
Next~ family visiting. My mom side has a BIGGGGG family as well. Usually we will leave about 10am to Bukit Rambai to Mak Pendek's house (my maternal grandma). My mom is from the Peranakan ancestry, and the baba and nyonyas has alot of nick names. So I have uncles and aunties with names like Beruk, Nyampuk, Kotai, Bisu, Buruk and so on. We will meet up in Mak Pendek's house with my other uncles and visit Ahyi Nya Ai's family first. Then move to Ahyi Nya Ee's house, Ahyi Nyonya's house, then only go visit my Akim Gemuk, before heading back home. =)
Sometimes, we will also go to Tampin to visit my EePoh, Ahyi AhGuek, Ahyi Ah Hong and my cousins. My aunties in Tampin are capable of cooking FANTASTIC Nyonya dishes. This will be one of the things I will miss when I get married.
Of course, on 2nd day of CNY, my other cousins are back. Our usual hobby is laughing at each other. Did you see the family photo framed on the wall. This year we had a great laugh looking at our faces in year 2000. Hopefully, we will continue to bring laughter to the family in years to come!
When my cousins are back, we will have our lou sang to commemorate a new HUAT year! So all of us will mix up the ingredients in the bowl, and shout out fortunate words. The yee sang must also be "lou" as high as possible to indicate HIGH fortune and achievement for the year.
Phew... the rest of my chinese new year, I will summarize as EAT, PLAY, TV, SLEEP (continue until Chap Goh Mei)...
HUAT AH!!! Can't wait for my new CNY experience next year! New role, new responsibility! How would it turn out to be? *fingers crossed!*