PETALING JAYA: A week before eagerly seeing out the Rat and welcoming the Ox in a difficult year, Malaysians are disappointed to learn the restrictions they have to contend with this Chinese New Year.
Most notably, the all-important reunion dinner is confined to those living in the same house.
Alexandria Lim likens the latest standard operating procedure (SOP) to Chinese New Year being cancelled.
“No visiting, no problem. But no reunion dinner with my aged parents living 10 minutes away? That’s brutal, ” said the mother of two, who works with a publishing company in Selangor.Lim, 55, said her parents and her family of four had taken pains to plan the menu and shop for items for the reunion dinner and first day of Chinese New Year, which coincides with her father’s 88th birthday.
“Chinese New Year is the big celebration for us. At the risk of sounding corny, during these extremely tough times, we need some cheer and joy to celebrate life, love and family, ” she said.
In Johor Baru, Tan Kim Hock had lowered his expectations to only having a reunion dinner with close relatives before the SOP announcement was made.
The 59-year-old restaurant owner said he was unable to celebrate Chinese New Year in his hometown Penang due to the interstate travel ban under the movement control order.
On top of that, Tan’s two children working in Singapore could not return due to the pandemic.
Tan also said he was puzzled over the latest SOP allowing pasar malam to reopen.
“It’s harder to control the crowd and SOP compliance in an open area. But family reunion dinners that only involve a small group are limited to those living in the same house, ” he noted.
Housewife Adeline Lee, 30, echoed a similar sentiment: “Already, those working in Singapore are not coming back due to travel restrictions.
“So the number of people who can get together for reunion dinners is dramatically lower this year, ” she said.
Lee said she would be celebrating the occasion without her in-laws in Johor Baru and her parents in Segamat for the first time.
“Our parents are disappointed. They will miss having their children and grandchildren around.
“My in-laws are also not well-versed in technology so we can’t video call them, ” she added.
Business owner Chua Kim Song, 44, said her 84-year-old mother was upset when told of the SOP.
“She was already sad that four of my siblings in Singapore and Sabah could not visit her this time. We were supposed to have a reunion dinner with my two other brothers in JB but now the plan is off.
“It was hard to break the news to my mother, ” she said.
Accountant Esther Chong had been busy making preparations to welcome the Year of the Ox as she looked forward to some festive cheer amid a gloomy 2020.
The mother of two in Tawau, Sabah, said the latest restrictions left her speechless.
“My husband and I need to rethink how to have a mini celebration with our toddler sons and in-laws, ” said Chong, 34, adding that she was disappointed at not being able to share the cookies she had just learned to bake with her relatives.
Typist Jessica Chu, 38, said her four-year-old daughter would be unhappy that she couldn’t show off her new clothes to her cousins.
She added that the sensible thing to do was to allow at least immediate families and their children to gather but limit the number of guests according to house size.
On the contrary, agropreneur Lai Kim Ming, 40, said he understood the reason for the SOP.
“There is always another chance and day to do what we wish to do. I think what’s important is that we must each do our part to curb the spread of this virus, ” said the father of two.