A Lockdown Chinese New Year

A shout-out to the person who redefined CNY as Celebrate Next Year! It was clever changing the words in the acronym CNY and spot on to indicate Chinese New Year 2021 was going to be a non-event.


It was, though some would beg to differ.


For us in Malaysia under Movement Control Order and restricted from cross-district travelling, saying the Chinese New Year was different was putting it mildly. Critics not mincing their words will pass it off as a whole load of bullshit to say this Year of the Ox was a celebration!

Could it be when shopping for new clothes didn’t happen with shops closed?


Could it be when going back to home town didn’t happen with cross district travelling not permitted?


Could be it when sitting together as one big family for the customary reunion dinner didn’t happen?


Could it be when there can’t be the customary pai nien to especially family and relatives?


This Could it be… list goes on and on…


Notwithstanding non-event or non-celebration, the Year of Metal Ox 2021 turned out to be memorable for what it was not as a Chinese New Year, and for the excitement of a different kind as the rat made a quiet exit and the ox, charged in kicking up dust and leaving a trail of confusion in its wake.


We Malaysians celebrating Chinese New Year remember it was dictated to us that our reunion dinner should be on the first day of new year and not as is customary on the eve. It was also dished out to us in the MCO Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that only members of the same household could sit together for the reunion dinner, regardless that this was something we have been doing day in, day out throughout the year.


For days in the run up to CNY, this was the excitement that the so-very-wrong and confusing SOPs created and replaced the air of anticipation to herald the major festive event in the Chinese calendar.


Good sense, however, did prevail and the misguided SOP was corrected just before the eleventh hour to permit family members within the 10km radius to have their sit-down together reunion dinner. It was a welcomed consolation for those whose family live within 10km radius. But for others, it was the unaccustomed lonely even depressing moments especially for singles locked in in Klang Valley. It meant having to settle for Food Panda or Grab Food-delivered meals instead of mama’s traditional fare.


I heard of the experience of a family trying to keep to tradition of having a steamboat reunion dinner, albeit with smaller size family. It was anything but pleasant having to wait in line with a very angry queue at a hotpot restaurant and only to finally collect their takeaway at 11 pm – an hour before the New Year!

As for my family, with no reunion dinner at my dad’s hometown, our Chinese New Year dinner was on the first day when we had the traditional Poon Choi, Hakka Kau Yuk and Pig Stomach Soup among others like those restaurant-served delicacies of big prawns fried with oats.


This was followed by the customary family photography session, which my sister and I took delight to post on social media.

The dinner plus the customary wishing our parents Gong Xi Fa Cai on the 1st day morning and receiving angpaos were the only semblance of CNY celebration for me this year.


None of the usual staying over at our grandparents’ house till the 3rd day of CNY. And locked down at home, it was chilling watching online movies and drama. The only difference was munching on nga ku crisps and CNY cookies.


The usual back-in-Kuala Lumpur routine on 4th day of CNY and visiting or having dinner gatherings with relatives on my mother’s side was markedly missing. The fourth day this year was hoi kong for me. But it was Work From Home, switching on the lap top, replying to emails, writing reports etc.


This new norm CNY would be something that we would want to put behind us and hope that it will be something never again repeated in the years ahead. And CNY will never ever again be Celebrate Next Year.


Fingers crossed that the fire crackers let off with a vengeance by the Hokkiens stranded in Klang Valley close to midnight on 9th day would work like in the legend to scare away the nien monster and we get to celebrate Chinese New Year like we always use to!


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