Walking Down Chinese New Year’s Memory Lane.

by Patrick Liew on February 14, 2013

As I sat in the quietness of my living room, the third day of the lunar new year, my mind wandered back through time. It floated back to a wonderful period of my life.

It seemed like such a long time ago when I was a kid and celebrating the Chinese New Year (CNY) was one of the highlights that I looked forward to every year.

It was a time to be happy and have lots of fun. It was also a time to feel ‘rich’ by a kid’s standard as a result of receiving money from ‘ang pows.’

On the eve of the CNY, my grandmother and mother would spend literally the whole day preparing for the reunion dinner.

I could still smell the roasted duck, the Hakka ‘abacus seeds,’ and all the delicious dishes from the kitchen. We got to eat many of those dishes only during the CNY.

That was also one of the rare occasions when our family would eat together. It was hard to do so because Papa and Ma had to work long hours to keep us together and alive.

Papa would ‘deliver’ his ‘annual address,’ but it was more like a repeat broadcast. His key theme was, “I worked hard so that all of you can be united. You must make something good out of your life.”

Looking back, I wished I knew how to hug him, to tell him how much I loved and respected him. Somehow, I never quite got to do it because outward expressions of affection was not common with my family.

(Papa, I wish you are still around. There are more food on the table now and there are so much more we can do together. I miss you.)

After dinner, the kids would rush out to the open areas in our kampung. We would play with firecrackers and all kinds of interesting games.

I knew then and till date, we  didn’t need a lot of money to be happy and celebrate life. We chose our desired emotion and made it happened. Period.

The CNY season was also a time when we could play literally the whole night. We would not be scolded because the Chinese believed that it was a bad omen to do so during that period of time.

On the first day of the CNY, you can imagine the kids would be sleeping through a large part of the morning. We had to catch up on our rest after a long and exciting party.

For the first lunch of the CNY, we would be eating a vegetarian meal. It was a time to be grateful for life and thankful for the blessings in and around us.

Grandma and Ma would give us ‘ang pows.’ It started with two 50-cent coins, a princely sum during those days and it was progressively increased over time to reflect higher standards of living.

The giving of ‘ang pows’ would come with some exhortations. Something like, “Make sure you study hard and have straight As on your Report Card.”

Frankly, whatever words that were spoken would usually fall on deaf ears. Even if they got through to the mind, they would not be kept there for long.

For us, it was all about the money. 🙂

The purpose of giving ‘ang pows’ has somehow lost its meaning. It was meant to be a symbolic gesture to send our best wishes and blessings to ourselves and to the other parties.

In fact, it is the same underlying meaning behind many of the CNY rituals. They include giving and receiving of oranges and other food items.

The eating of ‘Yu Sheng’ was started predominantly for the same purpose. Obviously, for owners of food and beverage outlets, it was a lucrative way to increase their bottom lines.

Malaysians and Singaporeans have separately laid claim for creating the Yu Sheng ritual. To me, there were more important issues that should be debated about and resolved.

My take was that even if Singaporean chefs invented the dish in 1964, our country was a part of Malaysia then.

So, depending on which direction of the causeway I was in, I could prove that Yu Sheng was started in that country. Lol!

The practice of blessing each other should be practiced not just on CNY but also throughout the year. We should speak words of life to others and offer them our best prayers and wishes.

Throughout the CNY celebration, we would be doing our rounds of visitation. We had to visit our uncles and aunties and the other elders in our tribe.

We would pay our respect and send them our greetings and blessings.

Most of the time was actually spent watching television, eating CNY goodies and collecting more ‘ang pows.’

Sadly, there were some people who only realized the significance of honoring our elders when they have become adults or have grown older.

Life is about being bonded with the family and with our elders.

In our worst moments, they were oftentimes the ones that would stand behind and besides us. They could share our sorrow and multiply our happiness.

The elders have looked after us in one way or another when we were young. We should look after them in their silver years.

When we grow old, I’m sure many of us will hope that our younger generation will look after us too.

We will like them to spend time with us because none of us want to feel abandoned and lonely. We want to enjoy the human touch and the warmth of a family.

When I was a kid, CNY was also a time to catch a movie. In those days, I remember we could watch a black-and-white movie for just 50 cents per person.

Watching movies during those days could be more exciting than doing it currently even though movies then were of much lower standards.

At the least, it was more interactive.

We would jeer at the bad guys and clap when the heroes appeared. Every now and then, somebody in the audience would speak to the protagonists on the silver screen. Lots of fun.

There was one more activity, an almost customary practice for many Chinese during the CNY.

We gamble.

I used to joke and please take it with a humongous portion of salt, Most Chinese are gamblers. The rest are liars. Haha!

If you cut the veins of some Chinese, you will see mahjongs, playing cards, and gambling chips gushing out. Their DNA has got dices twirling around it.


Seriously, I hate gambling but I love gamblers.

Throughout my life, I have witnessed how gambling could destroy many lives and families.

The worst part about gambling is – It is so easy to be addicted to it and so difficult to escape from its diabolical clutches.

It can locked its jaws on anybody and everybody and enslave the person forever.

Enough said. I am sure you will stay away from gambling at all costs.

This 200-year old dino has digressed again.

The CNY celebration is indeed a special one. It brings back beautiful memories for me.

I love the CNY rituals, songs, greetings, food, decorations, visitations and many other related activities.

More importantly, I value the meaning and significance behind them.

They help us to become more rooted and shape our identity so that we can take flight in life.

They provide the foundation and guiding principles to help us build for a better world.

I pray that we will never lose or dilute any of such positive customs and best practices. We will continue to promote them to our children and our children’s children.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at http://liewinspiration.wordpress.com/

For my quotes to the mass media on current affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at http://hsrpatrickliew.wordpress.com/

Please visit my website, www.patrickliew.net

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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