Friday, 15 February 2013

Chinese New Year in Malaysia

For the past 6 years, I spend my Chinese New Year in Malaysia at the in laws' home.  Some rituals remain the same... the yearly visits to relatives that we see only once a year.... to the extent that my 3rd sister called them "New Year relatives" when she was ~6 years old.  Some rituals are slightly different.

The difference between CNY in Malaysia and CNY in Singapore is
  • Fireworks and firecrackers are commonplace in Malaysia; they are banned in Singapore.  The Chinese believe that loud noises scare the demon (年) away to ward off evil
  • The in laws bake our own new year goodies like pineapple tarts, (pineapple sounds like 'prosperity come' in Mandarin), cheesecakes, steamed cakes and assorted crackers.  *Yummy. Burp*

Companies usually give their Chinese employees the entire week off for them to return for the all-important reunion dinner 团圆饭.  All members of the family - sons and daughters in law plus grandchildren, and any unmarried daughters - gather at their parents' table to partake in food that will give good fortune to all.  The traditional CNY reunion dinner will have
  • Fish to represent abundance
  • Lotus Root soup to signify that we will have sufficient to eat every year
  • Prawns for happiness as prawns in Mandarin sounds like the haha sound of laughter.
  • Mushrooms with dried oysters and black fungi.  Oysters to represent 'all good things' and black fungi for 'monetary prosperity'.
  • Steamed molasses cakes for sweetness in life.
If there are any members of the family not present at the reunion dinner, a separate bowl of rice and cutlery (soup soup and chopsticks) and an empty seat are set aside for them in the hope that they will return next year.

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