Prudent start to Chinese New Year

A trader with his Chinese New Year bamboo plants at the SPPK wet market in Ipoh.

ANY number can signify good tidings this coming Chinese New Year (CNY).

Even the number four or “si” in Chinese which rhymes with “death” is a good number, according to a CNY decor trader.

“It is ‘si ji xing rong (four seasons of happiness and prosperity), ” he said during a sales pitch at his stall in the SPPK wet market in Ipoh.

While eight in Chinese which rhymes with “fa” or “to prosper” remains a favourite number, the trader conceded that it might not induce spending like before due to the flagging economy.

A stalk of his green bamboo decor, the “zhuan yun zhu” (fate turning bamboo) is priced at RM3.

“Any number of stalks is good, ” he said of the bamboo plant which spirals upwards, likened to the fate of its owners in the coming year.

“Five means the arrival of five blessings; good health, good luck, prosperity, happiness and longevity, ” said the trader while wiping off sweat from his forehead.

The elderly man, who set up his stall at 5am, declined to reveal his sale figures.

He was quick to add that sales on CNY eve would be brisk as people like to shop at the last minute.

Across his stall, a Mandarin song Tian Tian Hao Tian (Every day is a good day) was blasting from one of the stalls, lending an air of festivity.

An elderly woman said she only wanted two wall decor items; one with the phrase “chu ru ping an” (safe journey) and the other, “wan shi ru yi” (everything your heart desires will be fulfilled), for her family.

The stall sells a large variety of CNY decor. From wall decorations and lanterns to ang pow packets, it has items in different sizes to cater to customers’ budgets.

Lee, a housewife in her 50s, said the mood this time was quiet.

“People have to budget very carefully, ” she said, adding that things were expensive and nobody was talking about year-end bonuses anymore.

“It is about whether one still has a job or not, ” she added.

In Bidor, Edward Chai, a father of two, said he spent RM1,000 on his younger daughter who started kindergarten early this month. His elder daughter is in Year Three.

The 33-year-old farmer said the mood was more subdued.

“Unlike before, there is no new year mood this time around.

“There is no good news to celebrate and we are even more worried over what is in store for ordinary people in the coming year, ” said Chai.

He said he lost an acre of ladies’ fingers recently to theft, which was unprecedented.

“There used to be occasional theft where the intruders stole only one or two rows of vegetables, ” he said, adding that his friend also had maize stolen from his farm, which was in a secluded area next to a river.

That’s not all. Chai said a sub-contractor friend is now on the verge of bankruptcy.

He said the main contractor who received money for the completed project refused to pay the sub-contractor who did the project.

He also said that his friend not only lost RM1.8mil, but also had to settle what he owed to his suppliers for building materials.

When the Golden Rat enters on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar which falls on Jan 25, it appears that bread-and-butter issues will continue to be a prime concern for the Chinese community.

“All that glitters is not gold, ” said Chai.

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