When I was young, I wanted candy canes instead of ang pao. Perhaps it was always a case of grass greener in western countries that had snow, chimneys and hot chocolate which according to Disney channel, was leagues better than milo mixed with condensed milk.
Now that I’m older, I not only understand the vast superiority of currency over sugar on a stick. I also appreciate difference, that is the difference between my culture and others. I applaud the celebration of all, but I embrace the one I was born with.
My childhood memories of Chinese New Year are almost exclusively the drives to Ipoh which at the time was the furthest destination my mind could comprehend. It felt like it was a million miles away. Right now I’d pay a million dollars for a bowl of Ipoh kai si hor fun. And more than double to have Ah Chor here with us so we can make our yearly pilgrimage. I do not remember the last time I went back.
Kid Sam who was someone painfully shy and had absolutely hated having to greet relatives and family friends. On Thursday (the first day) I made 18 international calls interspersed across sneaky toilet trips and a lunch break to wish everyone health and prosperity. I ticked off the VIPS; both sets of grandparents, godparents, my parents and uncles and aunts. I did this with the fervour of an obsessive collector in family phone calls. I am proud to uphold this piece of tradition.
Illegal fireworks, Tamil movies on a permanently static-riddled TV. My late great-grandmother’s coconut pandan pancakes with lashings of gula Melaka, the only coconut dessert I eat. The fight to be the family with the best pineapple tarts. My cousins who were same same but different having grown up in parts all over Malaysia. Never gambling but getting the rush from watching the game all the same.
“Next year please come home Sam. Ah Ma really misses you”
新年快乐 everybody. Hold your ang pao close, and your family closer.