Chinese new year is a big celebration in Asia. Most of which, the usual celebrations will include food, festivities and traditions. ( as expected) In Malaysia, the large Chinese community has its role in making preparations and weird traditions where it might seem different if you are from the native land of China. So lets get to it on how Malaysians celebrate Chinese New Year.
1. Shopping for red clothes.
Shopping for red clothes is essential to all Chinese families. The tradition to wear red on Chinese new year is believed to bring fortune and good luck. Stemming from the work ‘ang’ in Hokkien, the color red brings fortune to the beginning of the auspicious year. Shopping centers now turn into a free-for-all of discounts leading up to Chinese New Year.
2. Food prices hikes up by x 200000000 percent.
Nothing is complete without food. Prawns, fish, chicken and many more fly off the shelves of every market to be rushed to the kitchen for the last dinner before Chinese New Year. Hence, prices are on a ridiculous high compared to other dates of the year due to the high demand. So be thankful for your meals on Chinese New Year.
3. Cleaning, cleaning , cleaning.
In the prep for the festival, we go crazy turning our house inside out to clear out any speck of filth before the big day. The reason behind this tradition is to have good energy on the first day of the Chinese calendar. While some of the younger generations dont take these traditions seriously, but hey, when you are having relatives over, its great to have a clean house than a dirty one to avoid gossip and eye rolls.
4. Red packet economics.
Now, this is where it come down. The coveted red packets during Chinese New Year is one of the most important traditions for all Chinese people around the world. These red envelopes containing money is given to people who are not married as for married couples, they dont receive red packets but give them out. No one admits it but all of us count how many red packets we receive and estimates how much we unmarried humans get each year from this. On the other hand, our parents estimates how much to give out and tend to dance along the lines of being thrifty without being obvious.
5. Meticulous FBI precision planning on how to avoid jams.
Now we are going to talk about the commute back to our hometown. Most of us living in Kuala Lumpur aren’t from Kuala Lumpur. On every holiday, we take that extra off time to head back to our roots to visit friends and family. However, when it comes to Chinese New Year, making your way back is the most pain in the butt thing to do on earth. We listen to the radio and check on waze to determine when is the best time to avoid jams on the highway. If the time isnt right, we would take an extra few hours sitting in traffic to get to another state. Some of us travel on odd hours in the morning just to avoid this. How crazy is that?
6. Coming up with a list of excuses of you being single this year to your snobbish auntie.
Without fail, relatives will get up to your business. Not in a way where its super intrusive or stalkerish but 99.99 percent it will sound that way. While you dont see one another often, these questions tend to come out during conversation. If you are single, you will go through the excuse of being too busy with work, I’m focused on career, yada yada yada but in reality, you’re just living on hook ups and complicated relationships to make it official.
7. Visiting relatives whom you only see once a year or maybe three times in your life.
During Chinese New Year, we visit relatives by the car loads driving to one house to another. Well, visiting someone familiar and someone who you are close with is not an awkward meeting however, visiting your aunties brother-in-law’s cousin might be a bit much. Heck sometimes we dont even visit that person again in our lives. Visiting relatives can be fun but really distant ones, erm, not so when you are there in some random persons house.
8. Ignoring your new years diet plans and hog the biscuits and pastries on the coffee table.
Not forgetting your new years goals two months ago, keeping fit and sticking to a plan to be a healthier version of yourself is on everyone’s new years goal. It gets harder with all the snacks lying around the house and the temptation of your cousin snacking on the most wonderous pineapple tarts beside you will not make your diet easier. Soon, you will eventually put your diet goals on hold and let loose on snacking on cookies, soft drinks, beer and lavish dinners. If you can make it thru Chinese New Year with your diet plans, you might not be human.
9. Gambling like its Vegas
One thing that I can definitely agree upon millions of stereotypes on Chinese people is their love of gambling. Once in a year, we embrace this activity among relatives and close friends in the comforts of our home. Gambling on Chinese New Year is not just letting the pipes go on this bad practice but it ushers in good fortune and sets a joyous atmosphere of money in the house
10. Smirking with illegally bought fireworks
Fireworks can be dangerous and it is illegal to buy them from shops. However, we Chinese always find a way to get our hands on these bad boys. Following the Chinese tradition, playing with fireworks scares away the bad spirits on this luck harvesting festival.
I am sure everyone has an extra smirk on their faces when they sneak away to get the fireworks in the storeroom. Yes admit it.
11. Tolerating your ears to the constant repeat of Chinese New Year’s music.
That familiar tune of Chinese new year music you hear on the radio, in the shopping mall, in your grandparents house. No one escapes it. Dont get me wrong, I embrace my cultural heritage as a Chinese person but damn, I dont like Chinese New Year music one bit. The repetitive drum beats and the awkward music videos are just a few things to mention. What I really have to tolerate is their lack of variation and their static style of being an atypical Chinese New Year music with the same context. Comparatively to Christmas music, it can be joyous, it can be jazzy, instrumental but Chinese New year music. Nope. Its a singular genre on its own. If you like listening to it, feel free to do without me around.
12. Visiting the local temple to pray and sometimes make extra donations if your Chinese zodiac sign is not doing good this year.
At last, we make our way to the Chinese temple to pray for the new year. The temple is always filled with burning incense sticks and large crowds. The often unknown fact for foreigners about Chinese New Year temple visit is that we have to make extra donations in red packets as an offering if our Chinese zodiac sign are not going too good the year ahead. Sounds complicated ? We believe the Chinese zodiac sign could determine what are the hardships, challenges and the potential pluses you would have this year. So if the year ahead is not so good for us this time, we would make extra donations and offerings.
Above all of this chaoticness, the long distance drives, the expensive meals and the potentially weirdly invasive personal questions, we are all family. It is definitely worth spending time together for a few days of the year before resuming you own comfortable habitat in the city. Happy Chinese New Year and Gong Xi Fa Chai!