So it's the weekend before Chinese New Year. I just read about the usual traffic rush on The Star. Balik kampung time.
I have to say, this is where it gets me nostalgic, and perhaps a bit homesick. For my family, Chinese New Year was the biggest event of the year. An event that was filled with all sorts of traditions, admittedly many of which was quirky. And though we're very happy with life here, with a nice home, wonderful family and a baby girl, our health, and great jobs, one thing I idealistically yearn for sometimes for my daughter is to have some of the CNY experiences and traditions I grew up with. Because, in Midwest USA, there is zero New Year festivities. Well, unless you hang out in the Asian grocery stores. And so, if my daughter could understand, what traditions and memories would I share with her?
- The night before, the family gets together for a big round-table dinner. I miss my mom's ginger chicken, and roasted pork in dark sauce (the kind with at least 1 cm of fat)
- We have prayer sessions to welcome the God of Fortune, usually at midnight.
- How we wake up at unholy hours the morning of (well, it was before medical school, so it felt early. Now, early has a new meaning). Got dressed, rushed downstairs to greet mom and dad with our hands clasped and got our angpows, and then left for the temple for prayers. Oh, how I miss the sting of the incense smoke; it got so thick that it could probably trigger an asthma attack.
- The redness of the festival. In the cards, the clothes, the mall decorations, the food, the angpows. Heck (I kid you not), I even had a few pairs of special red underwear I'd wear, which brings me to the next tradition:
- Of gambling! This was the time of the year parents allowed for us to gamble. Nothing big time, just Black Jack, usually. Betting 20 cents felt like I was a whale at the Bellagio. Of course, the older crowds would bet much larger amounts of money, actually using PAPER notes (back then, RM 1 was a lot of money!). And yes, this is where my red undies came in, for luck. But as even my younger brother would attest to, I lost my money to everyone. The red undies never worked.
- Ah, the smell of black powder from the fireworks. Even when firecrackers were made 'illegal', well, there was no shortage of it. I remember the over-the-fence rocket wars we had with the neighbor kids. It was our own Gulf War. Until we set fire to the neighbor's yard and got a spanking.
- The irritating yet hypnotic CNY music. From the "gongxigongxigongxini,yagongxigongxi" (which incidentally, means I will Gong You to Death) to the music videos of little boys and girls in heavy makeup singing. Playing those songs in an insane asylum would trigger instant rioting. And yet, strangely enough, I miss hearing that.
- Mandarin oranges. I love the navel oranges from Florida here. But this doesn't even come close.