Being brought up in a traditional Buddhist family, Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year has been one of the biggest parts of my life growing up in Malaysia. Similar to other parts of Asia i.e. Thailand, Vietnam, China, the celebration lasts officially for 15 days with some shops and businesses close for up to two weeks. It is such a massive celebration that most Chinese head back to their home countries and hometowns before the first day of the new year, making it the biggest human migration on the planet.
I was born into a large family with nearly forty direct cousins, and so there was never a dull moment celebrating the occasion — feasts, house parties, house-hopping for ‘open house’, fireworks, card games (sometimes with money involved to fuel the adrenaline further), most of which last past midnight. Since living in London, I have missed the occasion a few times but this has made me cherish and respect the moments and traditions more than ever.
Here’s a tradition for good luck — the Prosperity Toss — the belief in this tradition is that the higher you toss the vegetables and condiments, the more luck you will be bestowed in finding wealth. Whether we believe the superstition or not, it’s a fun social thing to do with friends and family as we toss in some laughters too.
Red, the official colour for Chinese New Year
Audrey and her little champ, Nayson
On the evening of the 8th day of Chinese New Year leading up to midnight is probably one of the most significant days. Most Chinese of Hokkien origin celebrate this event that we call Bai Tian Gong (拜天公), a traditional ritual to honour the ‘Father of Heaven’ also known as the Jade Emperor according to popular mythology, with assortment of cakes, fruits, puddings, and a whole roasted pig. The preparation takes all day and we’ve got to admit it’s quite a set up. Although I was never and still not a firm believer of Buddhism to this extent, but for the sake of respecting traditions, my roots, and my ancestor’s beliefs, I’m happy and proud to be a part of this.
Thanks mum, for doing all of this.
After the prayers, the burning of paper mansion and paper money to end to the ritual.
Behold the Chinese bonfire.
Everyone gathers outdoor and help themselves to the food, and really just have some fun.
At the end of paper-burning, it is usually followed by fire crackers.
With the ladies within the family
The celebration didn’t end at home. We went on to my late uncle’s home for the second round of the ritual to pay our respects the same way. And yes, we had a second helping!
The night ended with a bang and crowds dispersed near the break of dawn. After a week of full on celebrations, things gradually went back to normal; people went back to work, kids went back to school, shops are back in business, Chinese New Year songs started to fade away in the malls.
I’ve always left with a heavy heart each time I had to hop on the plane back to London. They say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It has never been more true.