Today, Feb 2nd, is Chinese New Year Eve, one of the days when I’m most reminded of my family. It’s a tradition for Chinese families to have dinner together on the Eve, just like families here do on Thanksgiving or Christmas. The children will return to the home of their parents for the dinner so it’s called a ‘Reunion dinner’. There will be an elaborate dinner with festive dishes.
I suppose I could have a festive dinner with my own family here in Canada too but it’s rather pointless. There’s no reunion and I’ll be doing it just for the sake of tradition. It’s good to teach my children Chinese traditions but I think I’ll wait till they’re a little older. They’ll know it’s Chinese New Year now when they start receiving ang pows (red packets) from us and family friends!
There’s no Chinese New Year atmosphere here unless you go to Chinatown or step into a Chinese mall. There’s no holiday and no school break. The excitement this week is the major snow storm that’s coming and Thursday, the first day of the New Year, is going to be the ‘dig out’ day.
Still, today when I went grocery shopping to stock up for the week in anticipation of the storm, I bought fish, shrimps and Chinese sausages, food I don’t usually cook but that are part of a Chinese New Year meal. I’m not sure when I’ll be cooking them but when I do, I’ll tell my children that I bought these food because it’s Chinese New Year.
I may be giving the impression that Chinese New Year is not celebrated here at all but that’s not true. The Chinese still celebrate it in a big way in their own ways. For my family, we’ll be celebrating with some fellow Malaysians by having a meal together. We’re thinking dim sum this Saturday. We also had an unplanned ‘festive meal’ when we went for dinner with another Malaysian family at a Chinese restaurant last Sunday and found that they were not serving their usual menu. In place was a ‘festive menu’! Dinner that night took 3 hours as the restaurant was very busy and because we did not order the popular dishes that were coming out quicker from the kitchen!
I was shopping at Loblaws today and at the end of my check-out, the cashier, a Caucasian, wished me, “Happy New Year!” For a second, I didn’t know what she meant! It was really unexpected but it was a nice gesture. I smiled and thank her, refraining myself from saying, “Happy New Year to you too!” I was still smiling when I walked away. I guess it’s nice to have your celebration acknowledged. So if you are a non-Chinese and you’re reading this, if you have Chinese friends, go ahead and wish them, “Happy Chinese New Year” or “Happy New Year” or “Sun Lin Fai Lok” (Happy New Year in Cantonese). You can wish them for up to two weeks from the first day of the New Year.
Happy Chinese New Year to my family and friends! I wish you a happy celebration, and for those in Malaysia, a happy long holiday too!