Festive travels a growing trend

  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 25 Jan 2020

Seah (centre) making tea for the family while his wife Ng Kwai Wan, 54 (right) and daughter Jeslyn, 25, look on.

NOT all Chinese stay at home to celebrate the Lunar New Year with family and friends these days.

Some use the festive break as an opportunity to go for a family holiday at local destinations or abroad.

This has become a growing trend for young married couples but over the years, older couples are also joining the bandwagon.

This is a relatively recent practice, apart from observing the CNY reunion dinner and festive visits, both of which are important for the Chinese community in Malaysia.

Hence, the term bi nian which means avoiding the year. It refers to Chinese who travel outstation or overseas during the Chinese New Year period.

For some, this is a unique way to celebrate CNY with loved ones without being burdened with additional cost of having to host guests for the celebration.

They feel travelling together during CNY is a good way to bond with family members while enjoying a relaxing getaway.

For Seah Chin Heng, 53, the CNY period is the only time available for him to travel with his family as at other times, he will be tied down by work commitments.

“It is only during Chinese New Year that we have a long leave that can stretch from eight to 10 days so we use the occasion to go on a family holiday.

“We have been doing this for the past few years and we see this as an occasion for the family to get together.

“Last year, we visited my son who is studying in Germany and later travelled together to Zurich, Geneva and Interlaken in Switzerland, ” said Seah, who is involved in a family business selling car paint in Klang.

For their previous holidays during the CNY period, the family visited Japan, Thailand and Taiwan.

Seah said this year, they initially planned to go Fukuoka, Japan, but due to time constraints, they settled on Penang.

“Usually, my staff would start work on the sixth day of CNY, but this year he had plans to go overseas with his family so I have to be around.

“We will be spending a few nights in Penang, ” he said.

Seah added that the family enjoys taking a holiday during CNY but the only drawback was the higher cost for flight tickets.

“We avoid China as it will be crowded during CNY making travelling there undesirable during this period, ” he said.

For Wong Wai Hung, 42, travelling during CNY presents an opportunity for his daughter, Aliya, three, and son Aiden Wong, eight, to spend time with his in-law’s family.

Wong and his family enjoy the two-in-one during CNY; which is to celebrate the festival with loved ones and then go for holiday.

“My wife works in a company that supplies building materials for construction where she usually takes one-week leave during CNY.

“We started going for holidays during CNY since getting married and the kids look forward to the outings, ” he said.

The usual practice for Wong would be having reunion dinner with his parents a day before the eve of Chinese New Year.

They would then fly to Johor to have reunion dinner on CNY eve with his wife Angeline Tan’s family.

Festive visits would follow on the first and second days of CNY before flying off to their holiday destination.

“Chinese New Year is an important day for us to meet everyone in the family as those working overseas will be back home to celebrate the festival.

“The festive visits are important as it is part of the traditions and practices for Chinese New Year.

“We want to pass this tradition to our kids so that they will follow this practice when they are older, ” Wong said.

This year, Wong and his in-law’s family will be travelling to Nagoya and Takayama in Japan to enjoy the winter there.

The last few years, they had visited Sri Lanka, Fukuoka (Japan), Thailand, Vietnam and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

“We try to avoid countries that are celebrating Chinese New Year as they will be crowded and most of the eateries would be closed during the festival.

“Other challenges include flight delays as Chinese New Year is considered a peak season for travelling, ” he said.

Meanwhile, financial analyst Ivy Yap, 31, said her family keeps to tradition closely during CNY but with a twist.

“We would have a family cook-off to celebrate the festive season and the reunion dinner is a must.

“Every year, each family member would come up with a new vegetarian dish and we will have fun messing up the kitchen.

“It is our family’s way of bonding since it is hard to see everyone at the same time due to work commitments.

“My sister, who got married recently now has her own family, ” said Yap, adding they would attempt a vegetarian poon choy dish this year.

Poon choy is a traditional Cantonese dish that usually has prawns, roasted pork, vegetables, sea moss, mushrooms and dried oysters with occasional luxury ingredients such as dried scallops, abalone or sea cucumber.

For Yap’s family, some of the dishes including grilled “pork ribs” is replaced with bean curd while vegetarian “shark fin” is made of rice vermicelli.

“Of course there are hits and misses for our own version of CNY dishes, but that does not stop us from attempting something new for the reunion dinner, ” Yap said.

The following day, Yap and her family would travel to Slim River, Perak, which is her parents’ hometown, for festive visits to relatives’ houses.

“We have done this religiously as we think this is part of Chinese traditions and practices that we should follow every year.

“Sometimes we travel to Melaka or Ipoh if time permits, ” added Yap.

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