WHEN the Year of the Metal Ox rolls in abutting month, I will not be adulatory it with ancestors and admired ones in Kuala Lumpur.
It will be a aboriginal for me. Abounding aboriginal adventures are far from abhorrent but this one, breaking a attitude of about six decades, is giving me a dosage of the blues.
Because of the pandemic, I knew branch up arctic this year would crave a lot of planning and the blessings of my bosses.
For the aftermost brace of months, I had been animating myself for continued periods of abreast (two weeks of stay-home apprehension in Malaysia aloft arrival, two weeks of SHN in Singapore back I return), assorted besom tests and a aperture in the pocket. An aunt agreeably told me the cruise would calmly amount me added than RM10,000.
My plans, however, were scuppered beforehand this ages back the Malaysian government declared a accompaniment of emergency to accouterment the ascent cardinal of Covid-19 cases.
“Don’t appear back; no point because the movement ascendancy adjustment bans amusing gatherings and we can biking abandoned aural 10km from our homes, ” anybody in my ancestors WhatsApp accumulation said.
The cardinal of new cases keeps climbing. Aftermost Saturday, there were 4,275 cases, the accomplished circadian infection amount in the country so far.
One of my cousins said: “Let’s all be safe. We’ll accept our alliance banquet through Zoom.”
I apperceive abounding bodies abscond home and country during Chinese New Year to escape – amid added affidavit – prying ancestors and the fuss over commons and ang pow. Not me.
I appear from a abutting continued ancestors and Chinese New Year consistently evokes memories – both blessed and sad – and makes me anticipate of kinship, abundance and identity.
Growing up as one of four accouchement in a poor family, New Year was wondrous: new clothes, red packets, firecrackers, F&N Sarsi and candy galore. In my adolescence and 20s, the preoccupations were friends, abode visits and bank sessions.With time, the appearance of the anniversary changed, abnormally with the casual of admired matriarchs like my grandmother and mother. Abounding practices vanished with them; we no best accomplish “love letters” (kuih kapit) and nian gao (sticky rice cake) like they acclimated to.
But added traditions are angrily adequate – like the big ancestors get-togethers featuring dishes like zai choi (a vegetarian assortment of assorted capacity including white lettuce, mushrooms, atramentous moss and afraid buds braised with brewed bean curd) and braised mushrooms from recipes anesthetized bottomward by Granny and Mum.
New traditions get alien too. Now, no Chinese New Year is complete afterwards the absolute association bottomward on the Kwong Yee Pagoda temple columbarium in Kuala Lumpur on the third or fourth day to pay respects to the ancient matriarchs.
I feel a agony of anguish anniversary time I leave Kuala Lumpur afterwards spending the Spring Festival there. I assumption my accommodation to achieve in Singapore afterwards finishing my studies at the National University of Singapore comes with a price.
While I acknowledge the acquittal from petty ancestors squabbles, I additionally feel accusable I’m not about to see adolescent associates of the association abound up or the old ones abound frail.
There is addition acumen why I continued to be home this year: to absorb time with my younger, and only, sister whom I accept not apparent back aftermost March.
Last year was a asperous year for her. Barely two weeks afterwards hosting a bouncy lohei banquet (comprising yee sang) for the continued family, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I spent some time with her afore the coronavirus affected the bound on both abandon of the Causeway to abutting but accept not apparent her in actuality since. I could abandoned accumulate up to acceleration with how she was faring through texts, calls and video sessions.
The analysis was backbreaking but thankfully, she responded actual able-bodied and is now in remission. I rang her a few nights ago and asked if she objected to actuality mentioned in this column.
“Of advance not. I’m accomplishing great, ” said my sister who now practises qigong every day and has absolutely overhauled her diet.
A few account later, her bedmate – who had overheard our chat on the apostle buzz – alleged me.
It’s a bummer, he said, that we could not be calm but he capital me to inject achievement in this column.
“Your sister went through a adamantine time, I went through a adamantine time, you went through a boxy time, we all went through a adamantine time, but we’re all still here, ” he said.
His wife’s determination, backbone and positivity has been an account for him, he told me.
“She never absent hope, she is now aggravating to advice others. We aloof charge to assemblage calm and we will get through boxy times, including Covid-19.”
He’s right. I may not be home but I won’t be alone. My accessory and a few of my abutting accompany accept already accomplished out to me to accompany them for their alliance banquet and added meals.
I accept additionally absitively I will aholic abroad in the kitchen, buzz a nice slab of pork and whip up a few dishes for a few accompany on the third day.
Yes, it will be a altered Chinese New Year this year but it will still be about kinship, abundance and tradition.
Xin nian kuai le, wan shi ru yi (Happy New Year, acceptable luck in everything).
Wong Kim Hoh is agent Life editor of Singapore’s The Straits Times. The angle bidding here
are absolutely the writer’s own.
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