“How Chinese New Year has changed over time?”

By Allistair / 25 January 2023

Love Pokok.Asia“The renewal of the year”. Photo credit realsimple

  • Spending quality time with loved ones

  • To visit or not to visit, that’s the question 

  • Changes in celebration as the year progress

It’s that time of the year when your nosy aunties pester you with their favourite question, “ah boy/ ah girl, when are you getting married?”, followed by a duh statement, “you’re getting old ah” as if you can’t keep track of your own age. Yes, it is the Lunar New Year.

To commemorate the year of the rabbit, I will be hopping away from these aunties to dodge unwanted questions, unless red packets are at stake, I will gladly volunteer myself as tribute. 

“Aunty, if I answer your question, can you add an extra layer to the packet? Living is expensive in this era, and thus if I were to get married, you must give me more Ang Pau to fund my future wedding.” 😉

On a brighter note, the Lunar New Year is more than just a celebration; some see it as spending time with families, while others take the opportunity to travel the globe. As time goes by, following the wind of change, certain aspects of the tradition might have evolved along the way. To illustrate, during the lockdown, I remember receiving Ang Pau via e-wallet as visiting was prohibited. That was a pleasant surprise. 

I had a catch-up session with two of my besties before they flew off to their hometown, and we had a rather eye-opening discussion about the festive season. Here are some of the points from the conversation.

Love with family“Time spent with family is more valuable”. Photo credit freepik

1/ Chinese New Year is all about togetherness 

Raised in a multiracial background (my family is the definition of Satu Malaysia), I have had the opportunity to celebrate almost all of the festive seasons in Malaysia since I was younger. Although some of the celebrations meant more to me; for example, Christmas or Gawai, the rest are just opportunities to have long breaks. As for CNY, I see it as Ang Pau season, but I haven’t been getting it lately due to my age, or they assumed that I am married. Sigh. 

Of course, to both of my friends, Karen and Lin Yao, CNY is not just a holiday but a chance for a family reunion. “I barely see some of my relatives due to my busy schedule, said Lin Yao. I understand his sentiment. When it comes to distant relatives, I don’t really communicate with them on a daily basis. Festive seasons are the only time I get to see them. There are times when I will be in utter shock looking at my nephews and nieces all grown up. So, I am grateful to be able to celebrate these festive seasons together with my family members from different corners of the world. 

Karen and I are from Kuching. “I am always excited to go back to meet with my parents”, said Karen with a smile.  That is something I could relate to. Being away from my mom can be difficult, and I always take the opportunity to fly home during the festive seasons. However, there are certain times when I don’t get the chance to fly. That period I would deem as “Christmas’blue”. I compensate by video calling them to stay connected. Although I am thankful for gadgets, it doesn’t feel the same as being physically present. It breaks my heart every time my grandma sheds a tear when I speak with her on the phone,  knowing that she misses me. 

All in all, at least for the 3 of us, the festive season meant spending time with families. It taught me to cherish every moment with them. Ugh…I am already missing them while writing this article.

Family Reunion dinner is always the best part! Photo credit TheDrinkBusiness

2/ Is visiting a ritual? 

I enjoy Chinese New Year by having the best hand, 21 every time I flip my cards and the blissful moment of taking my family member’s money because they are horrible at playing blackjack…just kidding, not. Hey, if I don’t get any Ang Pau, winning blackjack is the second best. 

“Who are you planning to visit this year?” asked Karen. It took me a while to answer that because I have never put any thought into it”. It got me thinking, “Do you prefer open houses and house visits?”  Personally, I enjoyed entertaining guests rather than visiting. The drawback is cleaning after them. Oops…As we discussed bout this, we reminisced about the good old days. We used to meet up on the second day of CNY, followed by visiting our friends’ houses together. Every time we visit a house, we will have one additional friend joining us at the next house. Imagine fitting 7 people in a 5 seaters car. Yikes. Sea joking said, “The car feels heavier after every stop”. That speaks volume when it comes to the amount of food that we gobbled down during the festive season. 

Fun is an understatement. We had a blast! So was the radio. Singing out of tune in the car while travelling to our next destination. Now that we are older, we tend to stay home more. Apart from the age factor, I would rather be home with my family because I don’t get the chance to spend time with them. We could be just sitting on the sofa watching random movies on Netflix, that is time well spent with them. 

Karen takes it to another level, and she said, “l will try to schedule my time between family and friends”. I don’t think I would have the energy for that due to my age. She added, “I feel bad if I don’t visit them after they have invited me”.  I do agree with Karen, but my body doesn’t. Lol. I mean it can be very draining going from one house to another. If I was 10 years younger, then I would be happy to do so. I guess now I just have to swallow the guilt. If you’re my friend and you’re reading this, I’m sorry I didn’t attend your house this year. 😅

any-au                                                                                 Red packets for everyone! Photo Credit malaymail

3/ When are you getting married? 

“What’s the best part about CNY?” is a very cliché question to ask, but we had a good laugh when we shared our answer. “Counting red packets! Jokes aside, taking a long break from work”, Lin Yao said. #weknowyoufeelthesame. Come on, who doesn’t like public holidays? 

Personally, apart from spending quality time with loved ones, the second best is the food! Oh gosh, #foodgalore! Karen said it best, “diet doesn’t exist during CNY”. Well, I guess denial can be ughh…beneficial…until we weigh ourselves. So, the best solution is to dispose of those weighing scales and eat till you drop. I mean, how can you resist pineapple tarts? bakkwa? and the list goes on and on. 

Lin Yao said,“ I feel tranquil during CNY because I get to switch off from work completely and focus on my family”. Something that I can’t relate to. Festive seasons are usually hectic. From cooking to cleaning, then entertaining guests and house visits. Plus, both of them are engaged, so their family members won’t be asking the infamous question, “when are you going to get married”. I swear I just want to tell them to “zip it” or “mind your own business”, but I don’t want to be disrespectful. If you’re reading this, does it get on your nerves as well? 

4/ The Change

We all agreed that one of the subtle changes is fewer house visits. This might be attributed to the fact that most of us have gone our separate lives, such as living abroad, and those that are married will spend more time with their families. We also have friends that don’t celebrate CNY anymore, instead as an opportunity to expand “the number of countries that they have visited”. To think of it, there are times I will tell my mom, “let’s go elsewhere for Christmas or Gawai or Chinese New Year”. However, I know everywhere will be packed like canned tuna! We have to consider that.

Other than fewer house visits, according to Lin Yao, the need to “have new clothes” also has reduced throughout the years. He added that “the younger generations (#feelingold) would be less concerned over the CNY traditions and merely sees it as another holiday in the calendar”. I totally support his statement. When I was younger, it was a must to have new clothes during any festive season. It doesn’t feel like I am celebrating without a new shirt and pants. These days, I just grab whatever I can from the closet. Sometimes my mom would say, “go get change” and I’m like “I’ve changed”. I could see her “judgy” face, “why is my silly son wearing that”. Oh well, why waste money to buy new clothes when I have bills to pay? 

These were our tea-time conversations. Gone are the days when we discussed video games, movies and new gadgets. 

What about you? We would love to hear about your CNY celebrations experience! Do share and have a Gong Xi Fat Choi! 

Looking for more related article? Check them out here:

Five Ways To Emotionally Prepare Yourself For The Upcoming Family Reunion

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