Friday, January 14, 2005

wordPhoto: Ink

New year greetings Posted by Hello

The red Chinese couplets written by expert hands and lavished with caligraphy of well wishes. These are often hung to bring in luck for the coming new year celebrations and pasted on the walls or main door. Many people would think that only Chinese would write in such elaborate styles and skill but take a look at the picture below of the caligrapher doing his trade at Gaya Street and you'll be amazed. Puts some of us to shame and reminds me so much of the time when I went to Penang only to have the Indian ice cream seller at the Penang Botanical Garden talk to me in fluent Hokkien (which I only know some basic words).

Master at work Posted by Hello

Chinese New Year is acoming

Its less than a month away!!!!!! Chinese New Year (CNY) is fast approaching and the glad tidings for me is the fact that this particular year would be my first in nearly 4 years that I would be able to make back home for it! My tickets are all booked, leave approved from my supervisor, hands tingling to pack my stuff to bring back home and plans all worked out.

As usual the stores and supermarkets are already in the CNY mood with louds 'tong tong chiang' music blaring over the speakers, CNY goodies such as nien kuo, kuih, mandarin oranges, preserves, mushrooms, lap cheong (Chinese sausages) and soft drinks all displayed prominently for all to buy. Festive decorations are also up with the picture of the God of Wealth all hung about, firecrackers, frilly red lanterns and much more being put on display. If it was Adrian he’d be running crazy from the repeated singing of the group of small kids on tv. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a crate of Mandarin oranges, been known to finish a box of 50 in less than five days. Chinese New Year last for a duration of 15 days, the first day will be on February 9th this year and at the end of the 15th day, Chap Goh Mei ensues with parades and maidens throwing oranges out to the sea for bachelors to catch.

This year I still don’t know if my family would head to Kl for the CNY eve family reunion dinner. After the death of my grandmother who acted as the matriarch of the family, the uncles, aunts and cousins don’t really see each other that much as we used to when daily visits and gatherings were the norm. She was the glue that bound the family together and with her presence no longer gracing the house in Kl, we each lead our separate lives. Gift exchanging too has been a tradition we discarded, after all the stuff we get are usually repackaged and redistributed around to the point that the original giver might end up with his original handout. In the past our motorcade of cars which may be as large as 20 often moved in packs as we went from house to house, adults sitting down to beer and chatting away to get up to date on happenings while the kids run screaming about asking for ang pow and munching on tid bits. 3 to 4 generations would be gathered under one roof, from the elders to the latest addtions of grandchildren. The nights would see a grand dinner with 2 to 3 tables and after that rounds of gambling cards or mah jong.

Parents would be running about like mad trying to get their kids to put on their new clothes and the eve would see a flurry as they get ready to clean the house before the next day (it is believe that sweeping on CNY will mean sweeping away your luck out the door). Ang pow is always good, a cousin of mine has put her wedding plans after the New Year to avoid giving the required angpow to the bachelors and thus she still has a final year in receiving the red packets before becoming the giver the next year. Firecrackers being banned would not be too prominent a fixture unless fired off by those who somehow managed to get their hands on contraband merchandize. I once had a stick of fireworks that shoots consecutive varying coloured balls but the bottle toppled over and it shot into the bushes in sucession. My dad was screaming mad as he tried to douse his prize Bunga Raya and we ran. Lion dancing too is a treat that many won’t miss as they would travel in troupes to houses and businesses to usher in good wishes to the paying clients. They would jump from stilts to stilts accompanied by the sound of the gong and musicians, trying to get at the ang pow held high on the roof.

But what is certain, that even though the extended family might not be able to make it back together (some cousins are in foreign lands studying, some uncles would be away on holiday while others are too busy or entangled in family politics to not be able to attend) the immediate family gathering would be a thing to look forward to. Hopefully there’ll be yee sang (mix of raw fishes, spices, seaweed, crackers, etc.) at the table. I miss seeing them and I'm going to enjoy it as best as I can before I head back to Sabah.

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