Hot on the heels of the start of 2016 is Chinese New Year, which began o 8 February this year. We’re well into the first week of CNY, and while many are still enjoying their well-deserved break with family, some are already back at work to hold the fort. 😉 No matter where you are, we’re sure you can relate to most, if not all, these things that tell you Chinese New Year is on its way…
Time to dust off those shelves, change the curtains and get new bed sheets! You know it’s almost Chinese New Year when your family brings out all the buckets, cloths, mops, feather dusters and brooms and hands them to you with instructions to clean every single nook and cranny of the house. Sure, we all complain about doing these chores, but at the end of the day (or week) it’s all worth it when you’re greeted with a squeaky clean and tidy house.
Lanterns, Pineapples and Various Red Decorations
By decorations, we mean seriously stunning decorations, not only at shopping malls but also at regular homes, where many people pull out all the stops to fill their houses with all kinds of decorations that symbolize luck, fortune, prosperity, health, abundance, happiness, and much more. Expect to see riots of red and gold everywhere you go, including (but not limited to) lanterns, fans, paper pineapples, peaches, flowers, bamboo, gold ingots, Chinese knots, oranges, firecrackers, goldfish… the list goes on!
Mandarin oranges, pineapple tarts, almond cookies, peanut cookies, cornflake cookies, butter cookies, bak kwa (sweet pork jerky), keropok (fish/prawn crackers), nga gu (arrowroot) chips, fried crab filaments… the list goes on, and so does our appetite for them. From sweet to savoury, flaky to crispy, these festive treats are a clear sign that Chinese New Year is just around the corner. It’s okay to indulge to your heart’s content once a year, but remember to drink lots of water to avoid falling sick from eating too much of these delicious snacks!
If there is any performance that can be said to truly represent Chinese New Year, it would definitely be the lion dance. Lion dance performances are a common scene during Chinese New Year, especially in shopping malls and commercial businesses to chase away bad luck as well as invite wealth and good fortune into the establishment. Some families will also invite lion dance troupes to bless their homes during Chinese New Year open house festivities, which always makes for an exciting event.
Officially, firecrackers and fireworks are banned in Malaysia, and only those who have applied for and been granted permits from the authorities are allowed to set them off in certain specified areas. Nevertheless, many people still manage to get their hands on them, and you will find them being set off throughout the duration of Chinese New Year, from the long red firecrackers that accompany lion dances to the dazzling fireworks that light up the night sky.
The Man in Red (and Gold)
The God of Prosperity (also known as财神Choy San or Cai Shen) is believed to bring good fortune during Chinese New Year. Dressed in traditional Chinese garb of red with gold embroidery and often depicted carrying gold ingots, he is said to shower wealth and blessings to those celebrating the festive season. We like to think of him as a Chinese version of Santa Claus, who gives out money instead of presents. 😛
Chinese New Year songs (and movies)!
Love it? Can’t stand it? Either way, you won’t be able to avoid them wherever you go. To be fair, Malaysia leads the pack in creativity when it comes to Chinese New Year tunes, churning out catchy new songs to suit each zodiac year, and giving fresh new twists to well-known popular classics. In recent years, our local media industry has even turned to making movies that reflect the lives of everyday Malaysians and spreading the message about the importance of family, friendship and unity, earning the tears of audiences (as well as big bucks).
In a time when (almost) everything can be eaten out of season – e.g. durian, glutinous rice dumplings – it’s comforting to know that the ever-popular yee sang is only available once a year, making it a truly Chinese New Year dish. Not only does it have many elements symbolizing good luck, you’d also need a lot of people to toss it together, which of course calls for gatherings and reunions with relatives and friends!
P/S: Let’s be honest: we don’t know half the ingredients that go into a plate of yee sang, but we just wallop everything when it’s been thoroughly tossed, especially the crispy bits and fresh salmon! 😛
Last but not least…
Undoubtedly the best part of Chinese New Year, ang paos (red packets) are something that every child and single unmarried adult (don’t deny it) look forward to each year. Red is an auspicious colour for the Chinese community, representing energy, happiness and good luck. Putting money inside the red packet symbolizes wealth and prosperity along with good luck and happiness. It is also said to help ward off evil spirits, who are afraid of the colour red. Remember, it’s not the amount of money inside the ang pao that matters, but the meaning and significance of the red packet itself that is an important reminder of tradition and culture which should be preserved and treasured. 🙂
Wishing you a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!