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Memories of Chinese New Years Past

Published by on January 28, 2014

Ever since I could recall, every Chinese New Year was spent in my paternal grandmother’s house. The entire clan converged there, so all my CNY memories are interminably linked to the happy times in that little house in Malacca.

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My grandmother was a respected matriach in the extended family clan, every year the relatives, both close and distant, would come to pay their respects to her.

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We had a tradition of hanging a red cloth around the door, like at some weddings. Except the cloth was measured for the door on the old wooden house my grandmother stayed in many years ago. The newer house had a bigger doorway , so cloth hung halfway at the sides.

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My grandmother never made cookies, but there was never shortage of goodies to eat. My favourites were always keropok (prawn crackers) and white sunflower seeds. The type with the salty white powder coating the shells.

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As with any traditional Chinese family anywhere in the world, the family dinners were always the focal point of reunions. I don’t really recall much of the food, but I do recall we always had steamed chicken and chinese sausages (‘lap cheong’). Later after dinner my dad would always have a small shot of rice wine made by my grandma.

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Lion dances were more common then, I suppose it was cheaper compared to now, one of the neighbours would definitely have them on. Firecrackers and fireworks were far less common, though.

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My grandma was by no means a cheerful person, but not mean or a disciplinarian. She was just serious and upheld the traditions. But I guess she liked New Year very much. She liked the attention of and the long chats about days gone by. I suppose its true then, they say that Chinese New Year is most enjoyed by the very young and very old.

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We weren’t a big family, but with 4 children and spouses, and 7 grandchildren, it made quite a crowd when we all came together. There is a photograph of the clan on one Chinese new Year, i remember. My grandmother sat solemnly in the centre, everyone else around her. I was sitting on my mother’s armchair rest to one side, i was probably 9 or 10. Maybe when i go home this weekend, i’ll dig out that photo.

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That old house now stands run down and deserted, waiting to be sold. The inhabitants, long passed on, others all grown up and grown away.

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Happy New Year, everyone. Remember the past, live for the future.

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