I was on the phone with my mother a month ago when I mentioned that I would not be making it for the trip back to Malaysia this holiday. The silence she gave me was deafening.
You see, Chinese New Year is like Christmas for us. It brings family together and, with our families being so large, we always seem to discover new relatives every year. One distant cousin, whom I’ve never heard off, got married and another one has graduated.
We eat too much on these auspicious days too. How can we not when our mother makes the best bak ku teh (pork stew) in the world and our aunt keeps piling our plates with siew yok (grilled pork belly)? Home cooked food is what we yearn for every year. We sit around like Knights of the Round Table, but instead of swords, we held chopsticks.
After our meal, the cousins usually bring out a stack of cards and we embark on a friendly game of ‘cho tai ti’, which is the Chinese version of black jack. We gamble away our ang pau money (red packets) which we received as a tradition when visiting home.
The adults will sit back with their Chinese tea and catch up with each other. I used to love sitting with my grandmother and listening to her all afternoon reminiscing about the good old times when she was a little girl.
The afternoon ends on an early note usually because we have a few more open houses to catch and the cycle goes on for the next three days. By the end of it, we feel like we’ve gained more pounds than we ought to but hey, it was all worth it.
Being away this year is heavy and Skype is not the same as being there. But I have made them promise to eat for me and laugh just like I would.
Gong Hei Fatt Choi!