The thought of spending Chinese New Year away from my parents deeply saddens me.
Traditionally, I will take leave from work early to drive back to my hometown in Ipoh, Perak, and help with the final preparations which include finishing the last of the spring-cleaning and buying enough festive cookies and bak kwa (barbecued meat) for guests.
Hanging up lanterns at the porch and decorating the house with pineapple-shaped items to usher in wealth has also been a comforting ritual for me.
But with the movement control order still in effect, interstate travel is not allowed.
In any case, most of us have prepared for a very different Chinese New Year this year.
Those working out of town or abroad will have to give festive gatherings that they look forward to each year, a miss this time.
Even if the MCO is lifted and interstate travel allowed, people like me will think twice about travelling back to their hometowns.
With Covid-19 cases reaching four figures each day in daily reports, one’s worst fear is not getting infected by the virus but being a carrier who infects loved ones.
“This year, the way to show you love your friends is not to meet up with them, ” said one of my friends, who decided to tone down celebrations by having it with only immediate family members.
“As for relatives, there are some whom I meet only once a year.
“But this year, maybe I will drop off a hamper at their gate and hopefully, catch a glimpse of them.
“At least, we get to exchange gong xi fa cai wishes under our masks, ” she added.
Let’s face it, with the ongoing pandemic, celebrations in large groups are not advisable.
A digital approach to meeting friends and some family members will be the new norm this festive season.
Those living overseas will probably make video calls to their loved ones.
Married couples may try giving out “e-angpow” to close relatives and children for the first time.
Those who want to continue the spirit of giving may even consider ordering festive goods online and have the items delivered though courier or e-hailing services.
It is better to forego the usual bai nian or festive visits and open houses this year to keep everyone safe.
With dine-in not allowed in MCO states, companies that customarily hold sau gong dinners (gathering with co-workers to mark the official break from work for Chinese New Year) have also wisely shelved such activities.
It is definitely going to be a quiet Chinese New Year for everyone, but it should not stop people from celebrating with those closest to them.
On the bright side, we should be grateful that we are healthy and safe under our own roof.
We are still able to enjoy eating festive cookies and the must-have bak kwa this season.
For those who dread the incessant questions from aunties and uncles about when they are getting married or going to get a girlfriend/boyfriend, they will get some respite this festive season.
Let us celebrate this Chinese New Year safely and moderately by adhering to the standard operating procedures at all times.