How Malaysians celebrate Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year lantern

Today is Chinese New Year eve, the second most important day of Chinese New Year (CNY).

CNY eve dinner is an important time for family to gather together, eat good food and be nagged by elders. [Note to YQ: Do not be a patronizing aunt when you grow up.]

Enough bitterness, I want to share a two-part series of collaborative posts to mark CNY.

Early this week, I asked on Facebook for information on how different people celebrate Chinese New Year in different countries. For the feature, I was planning to have many Chinese folks in different countries to talk about their traditions.

Unfortunately, not many random strangers on the internet took up the challenge. I guess this might also be a good thing since it makes the post more cosy.

How Malaysians overseas celebrate CNY

First up is Max Yam from Max is a fellow Sabahan who lives just a 5 minute car ride away from my house.

On Facebook, he commented

To wanderers like us, Chinese New Year is about travelling, travelling home, and leaving home again… again and again… we seem to appreciate ‘home’ when we are away, but we are getting blur about the meaning of ‘home’ eventually…

His note struck a chord with me since I felt homeless for a period of time even though I had a permanent place to lay my head both in Malaysia and Singapore.

How my family celebrates CNY

Since CNY is about the family, I will share what my parents, my sister and I do during CNY.

On CNY eve, it’s the obligatory CNY reunion dinner. I am thankfully seated at the children table where there is less drama.

After our meals, my uncle will give his words of wisdom to anyone who’s listening, interjecting his sentences with, “You understand what I’m saying?”.

Other relatives will politely ask me what my job is even though we’ve been through this for many years. At the end, everyone gathers for a group photo.

On CNY proper, my family heads to the Buddhist temple to pray. Based on the traffic jam and the madness of looking for parking, I think it’s really auspicious to visit the temple on the first day.

Next stop is the KK branch of Tzu Chi. My other uncle and his family are devoted members of the charity/group. My family hangs around, eating some noodles and peeling oranges.

There is usually a lion dance as well.

I then spend the rest of the CNY period visiting other family friends or relatives. Oh, we also receive angpow (red packets) from married people. Hurray for the singles!

Chinese New Year is supposed to last until the 15th day. However, in the modern world, we only get two days of public holiday.

How do you celebrate Chinese New Year?

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