TWO generations ago, mixed-race marriages could be deemed out of the ordinary but today, it has become increasingly common, as Malaysia is known for being a melting pot for people from various backgrounds and cultures.
Proving that love is indeed more than skin deep, three mixed-race families share their thoughts on having the best of both worlds, especially during festive seasons such as Chinese New Year.
Having a father who has, among others, Indian, Portuguese and Japanese blood and a mother who is Chinese, Samantha Le Simon said that growing up in an interracial family taught her to be open to different sets of mentalities and most importantly, to accept her family members as who they are.
“Being part of different cultures taught my brother and me the value of embracing both worlds as we grew up,” she said.
Growing up as a mixed-race child, she also learned to respect various cultures by having friends from different ethnicities.
A family person at heart, the 25-year-old global media and communications student from Gombak looks forward to celebrating Easter, Christmas and Chinese New Year every year.
“I love the noisiness, the laughter around the house, the never-ending food and the day spent together. It feels great to celebrate the festivals,” she said.
Every year without fail, she and her family head back to her maternal grandparents’ home in Penang for a reunion on the eve, followed by the first day of Chinese New Year where the family simply enjoys staying in to avoid the massive jams on the day.
“We usually start our celebration as a whole on the second day and that is when the fun begins.
“My mum’s family would come around to my grandfather’s house and later, we will go to the houses of my mum’s siblings to celebrate all night long,” she said.
While she enjoys the ang pow and traditional Chinese home-cooked food served during the reunion dinner, her mother, Sally Choong, said that her husband, Michael Simon has always been supportive of the Chinese New Year culture.
“This cultural adaptation has been going on for the past 30 years of our marriage, and until today, he likes the culture as it is and willingly embraces it,” Choong said.
She also shared a unique tradition with her husband during Chinese New Year where the couple tries to incorporate colour combinations during the festival every year.
When Subramaniam Manickam, 64, and Tan Lay Hong, 60, met at their workplace in Klang 36 years ago, little did they know that they would eventually build a beautiful home with three mixed-race sons.
Subramaniam and Tan initially received protests from both sides of family but they finally managed to convince their parents and eventually the couple had a tea ceremony in the morning, a Hindu temple wedding in the afternoon and a Chinese-style wedding reception in the evening.
“We always try to incorporate both Indian and Chinese customs into our lives and it has always been the family’s tradition,” said Subramaniam.
Staying true to that, the couple raised their children with equal respect for both Indian and Chinese culture in terms of language, food and celebration.
The couple’s second son, Suman Raj, was grateful for his upbringing and said it helped him become fluent in Hokkien and Tamil.
“Since we were young, my brothers and I were exposed to both cultures and I am extremely proud to be called a Chindian,” said 32-year-old Suman.
Often mistaken as Malays due to their complexion, Suman and his brothers have always looked forward to Chinese New Year.
Every year, the family’s one-and-a-half month celebration kick starts with Ponggal, followed by Chinese New Year and ending with Thaipusam.
The family would usually have a reunion lunch and prayers to respect their ancestors on the eve of Chinese New Year.
Then, on the first day of Chinese New Year, the family would head to their maternal grandparent’s home to seek their blessings and bask in the joy of savouring the Chinese New Year lunch.
“Fish is a must-have during our family’s reunion lunch to signify abundance and not forgetting the yee sang that symbolises prosperity and good luck for the year ahead,” said Suman.
A young Simon Christepher from Kuala Lumpur used to raise his hands not once but twice when his primary school teacher called out to Indian and Chinese students in class.
As he grew older, the only child of a Chinese mother and a father with Indian and Eurasian ancestry eventually realised and embraced the fact that he was of mixed parentage and different from his friends.
The now 28-year-old auditor said that growing up in an interracial family that celebrates Chinese New Year and Christmas was fun and, at the same time, exposed him to many things that eventually made him more open as a person today.
“It was nice to learn and experience the different cultures first hand and I respect both culture,” he said
Before his maternal grandparents passed away, Simon and his family would usually visit his grandparents at their home in Kuala Lumpur to wish them, collect ang pow and later help them to prepare for the day ahead as up to 40 family members would come over for lunch.
“We would just catch up with everyone and have a ball as we probably only see them once a year,” he said.
While Christmas is more formal with a church visit and supper after that, he said that every Chinese New Year, his late grandfather would light up the big fire crackers at midnight.
Apart from that, on the eve of Chinese New Year, the family would also feast on their reunion dinner prepared by his late grandmother and later they would conduct the Chinese prayers.
“We only cook Hainanese dishes with chicken rice as the main dish during the reunion dinner and on the first day of Chinese New Year as it was my grandparents’ tradition to do so,” he said
After his grandparents passed away, his family continued the tradition by visiting his uncles to pay their respects to them.
Meanwhile, the second day of Chinese New Year is usually a quiet affair for the family as they meet up for lunch.
Coming from two different cultural heritages, Simon said he could see things a little bit differently and it made him more open and tolerant.
“Attending the prayers the day before Chinese New Year and going to church on Christmas eve feels about the same but it is so different at the same time,” he said.
As Christmas was previously the main celebration for his wife, Charlene Lee, he added that sharing the Chinese New Year celebration with her had also been a unique experience for the family.
“She has embraced and enjoyed celebrating Chinese New Year with me and my family and also learning the traditions that comes with it. She loves how different it is from Christmas,” he said.