FOR Hu Mooi Seng, spending Chinese New Year in a foreign land was never part of the plan.
The 48-year-old logistics worker, who works in Singapore, would usually return to his parents’ house in Kajang, Selangor, for the festive season.
“It is a yearly ritual for me to go home with my family to celebrate with my parents and relatives, but this year, I have to give it a miss, ” he said.
Mooi Seng’s disappointment is shared by many Malaysians who are abroad or out of town as they are unable to return to their hometowns because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The pandemic may have put a damper on celebrations, but some have come up with creative ways to observe annual traditions to bring family members closer, in a virtual sense.
“I have not returned home since the pandemic began last year, ” said Mooi Seng, who is definitely feeling homesick, especially since this is a special year for the family.
Three members – all from different generations – were born in the Year of the Ox.
They are Mooi Seng, his father Hu Yew Song, 72, and his niece, Hu Z Qin, 12.
“This is the first time I am celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore with my wife and two daughters.
“Somehow, it feels quieter here and not as lively as back home.
“We may visit some friends on the island during Chinese New Year, ” said Mooi Seng, who would usually bring home festive goodies for his parents.
“I would love to send them some Chinese New Year goodies but delivery from Singapore is expensive.
“So, I have sent a bigger sum of money for my parents instead so they can buy Chinese New Year items.
“Although we cannot go back home this year, we plan to interact with each other at our reunion dinners through video chats.
“This is the part that I will miss the most as Chinese New Year is the only chance to see all our relatives and have fun together.
“For the kids in our family, I will give them e-angpow and wish them a great year ahead, ” he said.
Every year, Mooi Seng would usually have meals with his parents and relatives on the first and second day of Chinese New Year.
Sometimes, he would take his two daughters and niece to the arcade to play games.
Similarly, Yew Song will not be making his annual trip to Teluk Intan, Perak, to visit his younger brother’s family because of the travel restrictions.
“My younger brother is currently staying at the ancestral home and I miss the lifestyle there.
“I spent most of my life growing up in Teluk Intan and going back usually takes me down memory lane.
“When I’m there, I will take the opportunity to visit friends who are still living in my hometown.
“This year, I will definitely miss hanging out at the coffeeshop in my hometown and meeting friends that I have not seen in a while, ” he said, adding that he would also not be able to conduct prayers at a temple there to seek blessings for a good year ahead.
Yew Song, who lives with his wife, will not be seeing his children and grandchildren this year because the movement control order is in effect until Feb 18.
“We can organise a virtual reunion dinner and see everyone on a video call but it will not be the same as seeing each other in person.
Thankfully, with the latest Chinese New Year SOP, more family members can join in the reunion dinner including another son, BG Hu, 47.
“Since senior citizens are not encouraged to go out during the pandemic, we decided to keep the celebrations simple, ” he said, adding that they bought their Chinese New Year essentials, including clothes, before the MCO was implemented.
“My only wish is that the Covid-19 situation will improve and I get to see my family soon, ” he said.
For Mooi Seng’s niece, Z Qin, Chinese New Year is a time to have fun with her cousins.
“Fireworks, card games and shopping are always on our to-do list during the festive season, but sadly we cannot do all of that this year.
“I always look forward to spending time with my cousins as I do not usually get to see them because they live abroad.
“However, we will spend time together through online chats and multiplayer games this year, ” she said.
Z Qin added that she anticipated an uneventful Chinese New Year because visiting relatives was not allowed.
“This means I will collect fewer red packets. I hope things can go back to normal and we will be free of the virus next year so that I can visit my relatives and collect more ang pow, ” she said.