This year, I celebrated Chinese New Year with my husband and in-laws in KL, Malaysia.
It’s the first time I celebrated Chinese New Year in KL and this year, I really had to budge since my husband is up in arms already that I haven’t met his cousins on Mum’s side.
To manage my own expectations, I asked him what we were going to do during the 3-day weekend. The brief summary blithely given to me: eat, drink, gamble. Repeat. I’m not a fan of gambling so I pretty much stuck with eat, drink, eat, drink. Repeat.
Everything about the Chinese New Year revolved around family and friends. New Year’s Eve is traditionally the reunion dinner where the extended family gather together to share a meal and catch up. The married relatives distribute ang paos (Chinese red envelopes with money inside) to the remaining single cousins and the children of the family.
To open the reunion dinner, we all did the Prosperity Toss with Yee Sang, a Teochew-style raw fish salad (usually salmon) mixed with shredded vegetables and assorted sauces and condiments. Yee sang is the symbol of abundance, prosperity and good health. It is a ceremony wherein all the family members are given a pair of chopsticks and everyone surrounds the yee sang. We all started tossing and mixing the yee sang while we were all shouting our wishes and prayers for the year: good health, prosperity, promotion, boyfriend, girlfriend, wealthy husband for cousin Kristina, more trips abroad for the family, etc.
Admittedly, I enjoyed the yee sang experience because I never did that with my Chinese cousins and friends in Manila.
After the yee sang was tossed and after all the mess (the messier, the better, apparently, because you have to toss it very high up in the air), the entire family sits down for dinner where the yee sang is shared and the rest of the food is served.
Apart from all kinds of meat that you can think of, I noticed that there were A LOT of biscuits and cookies. And I mean A LOT. There were almond cookies, pineapple tarts, butter cookies and other kinds of biscuits that I can’t even pronounced. I got particularly hooked with the pineapple tarts, I think I walloped half the jar!
Other observations about Chinese New Year specific to KL:
- Chinese and Chinese-owned shops were closed for the entire weekend. Yes, even in the malls, they close down. Unfortunately for me, even my favorite BMS Organics was closed. It was a good thing that we already had lunch there before the festivities.
- There was NO traffic in KL and PJ. The streets were pretty quiet, there were less cars and people since most of them went back home to their respective towns and villages.
- Fireworks were regulated in Malaysia. Apparently, it is prohibited for individuals to light their own firecrackers and the government is the one doing this in central locations.
- Most of the restaurants in the shop lots are closed on New Year’s day but some bars are open, but only with bar food being served.
- Friends are normally invited to lunches and dinners to eat, drink and gamble. It’s open house season!
At the end of the day, the universal thing about Chinese New Year is welcoming it together with family and friends, fully armed with optimism and well-wishes that the New Year will bring good fortune, good health and good tidings.
I hope everyone had a blast celebrating Chinese New Year. I sure hell did!
For more useful information and tips about celebrating Chinese New Year in Malaysia, here are some links: