Happy Chinese New Year! Another year has come and gone according to the Chinese lunar calendar – we bid adieu to the Year of the Horse and welcome a brand new Year of the Goat. 🙂
Traditionally, my family and I will travel back to Ipoh to visit my paternal grandmother and aunts on New Year’s Eve, aka Reunion Dinner night (lin sam sap man). It is a time when everyone gathers to have the last meal of the year, with dishes that symbolise togetherness, happiness and harmony.
CNY for my family this year is a very quiet and subdued affair. When I was younger, the house used to be lively with games, mahjong, people talking, eating and laughing. Now my cousins are all either overseas or have not come back for the new year because they are celebrating with their own families. Many of my aunts and uncles have also passed on. I kind of envy those large families who go back to their respective villages and seem to be really close to each other even though they only meet once a year.
It’s quite sad, actually.
Oh well. A new year is for happy things!
Cooking for the family was my grandma’s domain. She used to make really kick ass chicken curry which my dad and his siblings loved. But since she is 91 and can’t walk anymore, my third aunt has taken on the task. It’s impressive the way she can whip up such mouthwatering dishes! I think she is the only one who inherited my grandma’s skills in the kitchen.
Before eating, we will first make an offering to the ancestors and gods at the altar. The food will be laid out on a small table along with five pairs of chopsticks (one for each departed family member, which includes my great grandparents, grandpa, my aunt and uncles). We will then offer joss sticks and prayers.
This year we also burnt hell money. According to Chinese beliefs, the living can send the departed gifts of money and small luxuries to make their time down there slightly easier. Which doesn’t make sense, seeing that if you are in hell, you are there to be punished (?).
Unlike Christians where good people (and all dogs!) go to heaven, it is difficult for someone to ascend to Heaven in our belief/culture, unless they become an Arafat(Buddha) and achieve Nirvana (one with God). Even though someone might have been kind in this life, chances are we will still refer to them as being ‘down there’ instead of ‘up above’. We think of Hell as a place for punishment and transition, where you ‘live on’ for a bit and atone until you are reborn again. The only concept I can think of that is similar is Catholic Purgatory.
The only way for one to free themselves from this cycle is to achieve Nirvana – something that may take thousands of lifetimes.
I’m digressing again. More pics!
We start off the dinner by Lou Sang, or tossing Yee Sang – a uniquely Malaysian/Singaporean Chinese tradition that you won’t even find in China. Yee Sang is basically a vegetable and fruit/snack salad of sorts with colourful and crunchy fried condiments, crackers, assortment of sliced vegetables/fruits such as onion, radish, cucumber, pomelo, apples or mangoes (ingredients may vary). It is usually mixed with jellyfish or salmon, then topped with sweet and sticky fish sauce.
The objective is to ‘lou‘ (toss) it as high as possible to symbolise good achievements. Kids will wish for good results, while adults will often shout out ‘BONUS’ and ‘SALARY INCREMENT!’ 😀
Just some of the food that we have for reunion dinner. It’s much simpler this year. Since my dad’s family is ethnic Hokkien, most of the dishes are traditional Hokkien dishes. Siew Yuk (roast pork) and bark jaam gai (poached chicken) are must-have meat dishes; there’s also Jiu Hu Char (sliced radish and carrot salad with dried shrimp) and Salted Vegetable Duck soup, aside from some stir-fried vege dishes.
We used to have a lot more, like dried oyster dish with mushrooms, oatmeal prawns, fried chicken… but yeah. Still a great meal!
Some families will have everyone sit together at a long table, but since space is limited in my grandma’s house, we usually eat separately at smaller tables or out in the living room.
No card games or mahjong either, since we were the only ‘young ones’ and all my cousins did not return this year. We spent most of the evening poking on our mobile devices. @_@
On another note, one of my obnoxious cousins DID show up, bringing his pregnant girlfriend in tow and announcing their wedding date.
Now I know I’ve gained quite a lot of weight, and it’s normal for relatives to comment on appearance (part and parcel of being in an Asian family!), but tone is very important and you do not just call someone fat in front of everyone. Which is what said obnoxious cousin did. It is not even the ‘hey, you seemed to have gained some weight’, rather the ‘WOW WTF YOU ARE SO FAT’ kinda comment.
Seeing that he is 100 kilos, I do not see how he is qualified to comment. Also, it is rude to say that to random cousins you only see once a year.
It was very disheartening to have someone call you fat to your face. Back in 2013, I used to weigh 56kg – a normal weight for somebody of my height and size. Then I started work and stress-eating, ballooning up to 76.3kg at my fattest point in September last year: more than 20kilos. I’ve been working really hard since then and I’ve managed to lose eight kgs – an achievement I’m proud of, even if I still have a long way to go. To have someone just call you fat without even understanding the struggle against food choices and temptation is just… pretty shitty, to be honest.
So since he was acting like an obnoxious little prick, I do not see why I should give him any respect.You want respect, you earn it. If I were to judge you as you have judged me… don’t even start. But I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I just smiled and retorted with a sarcastic reply of ‘living the good life!’.
I can lose the weight, dear, but you’ll always be an asshole.
Anywayyyy. That was too ranty for a nice, feel-good post. I shall not start off the year with negativity.
On another happy note, I am now 67.5kg on my latest weigh-in. I hope to be able to hit 65kg by the end of March, so wish me luck! Positive thoughts.
Til next post!