Celebrating any festival in Malaysia usually results in packed roads as the community comes together for parties and food.
This, for a journalist like myself, presents a pot of content to dip into for feel-good stories.
This year, however, I was perplexed during Chinese New Year to find that not only were the celebrations watered down to the extent that it felt just like any other day but that the magician’s hat which we always pull out for our story ideas, was now practically empty!
Phone calls to families, friends and contacts were met with “sorry and no story to share” replies.
Those who usually welcomed us into their homes to share their stories and showcase their spread of delicious traditional staples said they were keeping it simple this year and were shy to share their spread.
Many were still coming to terms with the shock and new normal of not being able to welcome family and friends to their open house for Chinese New Year.
Worst still, some were heartbroken that despite living so close to their parents or siblings, they were unable to meet due to the standard operating procedures during the movement control order.
One family I called hoping to interview for their annual reunion dinner said there were only going to be five of them as opposed to the usual 20.
“My mother is celebrating with my brother as they live nearby.
“I live in a different district so it will just be my household this time.
“We are making basic dishes as we are not in the mood to eat steamboat without them, ” the man of the house said.
Patrick Lim, 65, who is used to seeing all his siblings from other states during Chinese New Year, was happy that he managed to video call them while having his reunion dinner with his family members at his parents’ house at Lim Jetty in Penang.
“The eve of Chinese New Year is an important day for us with many returning from other states and countries just to gather for lunch or dinner.
“My siblings live in Sungai Petani, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and this year, they could not make it back.
“We video called them to show them how we celebrated this year.
“It is just a simple steamboat session with immediate family members who live within the area.
“We do not know when we will get to meet each other as the Covid-19 pandemic can go on for years.
“We hope we can gather next year.
“We are trying to stay happy and know that it is for our safety, ” he said.
Editor Christopher Tan and his wife Ng Su Ann decided to make Poon Choi for the first time
during their first Chinese New Year without family.
“We usually celebrate with our parents who live on the island but in different districts.
“Then we visit my relatives in Kuala Kurau, Perak, on the second day.
“Chinese New Year usually means feasting with them so we never cook during this period.
“This time we did not have a choice as our parents live in different districts.
“To make do and make it special, I decided to make Poon Choi as my wife has never tried it.
“It was a special experience and something different.
“I hope when the pandemic is over, we can have a family gathering, ” he said.
For the Chinese community, the Lunar New Year has to be celebrated somehow during this dark period and we wish everyone “Gong Xi Fa Cai”.
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