Saturday, February 17, 2007

Memories of Chinese New Year, part II

Money. When it comes down to it, Chinese New Year is about money, no? After all, why would strangers take their 5 kids and 4 nephews and nieces to your open house, to have them line up, hands clasped like they were going to pound you to death, to wish you 'Kong si Fat Chai'? And who is Chai, anyway, and why is he fat?
You'd get money in angpowes, or red packet, and keep them close to you. As a greedy kid, I learnt to wear pants with deep pockets (plenty of stash space marr). Angpows that felt thick were a good sign. Angpows that clinked were bad ($1 coins).
After you'd collected a significant amount of moo-lah, you'd adjourn to a friend's house, where the real thing began.
Two-lup. 21 o'clock. All meant the same thing: Blackjack.
Probably the only time of the year adults condone gambling, even for kids. Usually small-time affairs, bets of 25 cents or so. Though I'm sure somewhere out there some kid's placed his dad's car keys in the pot before. It was serious business. You'd eye your fellow cheaters players with hawkeyes, slowly sipping your stiff drinks (7-Up), carefully angling the card ever so slightly from the table to look at your hand. Life or death serious.
Chinese New Year isn't Chinese New Year without the gambling. Usually my dad or older brother would be the 'chongker'. Or dealer. Gutsy; you'd either made a ton of cash (ie. 5-10 dollars) or lost some.
And as a kid, I sucked at gambling. I lost to my parents. I lost to my brothers. I lost to my friends. And I even lost to my kid sister. I tried everything; even the customary red underpants while playing cards (for good luck)(they ALL must have been wearing red underwear, double-layered, no less), or even going commando (not very comfortable).
I discovered only this year at our Chinese New Year party that CNY-Blackjack rules aren't the same as the Bellagio card rules. No such thing as getting triple for two aces. Or double for not having busted with 5 cards ('five dragons'). Heck, you only get 1.5x for a blackjack. Cheh.
True to our nature, when the 30 or so of us got together for CNY this year, we broke out our lion (again, I danced the part of the lion ass), homemade 'yee sang', and more importantly, the gambling table. And for as long as I can remember, I actually made $10 (USD!).

It's our way of feeling closer to home on this auspicious event. This is when I'm usually most homesick, since for many of use this is THE event of the year.

Found this video off YP's blog. Man, if this doesn't make you homesick this time of year, I don't know what will. You've been warned...

Whoever Chai may be, Gong Si Fat Chai, everyone! (Gambling session, my place, midnight)


Blogger dobbs said...

Great post as always Vagus - glad to see you finally got onto the winning side! Happy New Year to you!
PS. A gentle reminder about the next MMR Blogrounds, but take your time.

5:20 PM  
Blogger blueapple said...

the 'yue ding' song and the video really made me homesick..
Happy Chinese New Year ya all..

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw this on the hospital computer - no sound...but very touching .....really really home sick....gotta go back after shift and saw it again on my computer...

I missed Malaysia...


5:56 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Nicely written
Happy Chinese new Year

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chai means prosperity or lots of $$$ in mandarin...whereas "Chai Sen Ye" is the fat man that you are referring to..
anyway, nice post...:) Happy CNY

7:08 PM  

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