Sunday, February 6, 2011

Celebrating the Rabbit Year in Malaysia

Lunar New Year's eve celebration in Malaysia usually starts with a family dinner reunion. This year, to herald the coming Rabbit Year, my husband's family chose to have steamboat dinner at home to fit the purpose. His brother's new house was the venue. My sisters in law and I prepared the ingredients for the dinner. Adults gathered in the big eating table to enjoy the steamboat and the kids played and ate the food on the small table set in the garden outside the house. Steamboat is common to have at home in Malaysia but in Indonesia, my family doesn't practice this at home. In fact, in Malang there was a steamboat restaurant but not long, it was shut down due to little interest for steam-boating.

Eat, eat, eat.

On the first day, my husband and I followed his parents to Muar and have some big family annual gathering at his Grandma's house there. We spent almost the whole day meeting his relatives, eating home-made lunch and dinner and playing cards and mahjong.

Family Portrait for this CNY.

I watched the kids were busy playing some mild firecrackers for the whole day. That day, I found something new which I never saw or played during my childhood. It's a stuff called Pop Pop. It's like a mini firecracker wrapped in a paper - throw it hard on the floor and it will produce BANG BANG sounds. When it's already cracked, we can see about three mini rocks scattered. Needless to say, after the kids finished throwing boxes and boxes of this stuff, the floor was full of small rocky objects. No barefoot walking please.

I was surrounded by the kids playing firecrackers for the whole day.

In the late afternoon, my husband and I sneaked out and drove away to get the infamous Muar Rojak in Tanjung Emas. The last time we had the Rojak was on the previous Lunar New Year celebration in Muar, which happened to fall on the same day as Valentine's day. It's only RM 2 per portion and there's always a long queue in the stall.

The famous Muar Rojak's stall.

Exactly similar spot when we had our first Rojak together last year.

Reminiscing our first Valentine in Muar last year.

When the night fell, everyone gathered outside the house and started the mighty fireworks. It seems that the whole Chinese Malaysians would play fireworks in their houses' yards during Lunar New Year. I could hear people in the neighborhood alternately set some fireworks up and made some noise. My husband told me that ancient fireworks started in China. Then, there was this Chinese legend which says that once upon a time in China, monsters (whose forms were allegedly similar to today's Lion Dance) visited some villages there every Lunar New Year. The villagers created and burnt firecracker wrapped in red pockets to create loud popping nice to scare them away. Not sure how true the story was but it was interesting to know the legend since all this while I don't really know how to appreciate the beauty of fireworks due to the magnificent loud that they produce and noises generally annoy me.

The large fireworks set by my brother in law.

Then, on the second and third day of Lunar New Year here is filled with visiting some close friends' houses - we bring two oranges for the parents, get angpao from their parents (for the unmarried ones), have some light snacks and drinks whilst playing cards and mahjong. This practice is called Bai Nian. I don't recall we practice this in Indonesia. We do visit our relatives to say Gong Xi Fa Cai and harvest angpao but I don't think we go to friends' houses during this period.

Speaking about angpao, this year is a trivial year to my husband and I. Some people still give us angpao and some don't. Some people think that since we are technically married, we should give angpao this year. They resent the fact that we don't distribute angpao this year. On the other side of the coin, some think since we haven't had the custom wedding as yet, we still deserve angpao this year. Honestly, I don't really care. I take the red packets from those who give us and don't think so much on those who didn't distribute the angpao to us this year.

Last night, we had Chinese New Year dinner at a big restaurant here with my husband's pals in town. We opened two tables for this. The not to be missed dish/tradition was my favorite Lo Hei Yu Sheng, which I first tasted in Singapore some three years ago. I love it.

Lo Hei Yu Sheng!

Husband and me at Min Kok Restaurant, Seremban for the Rabbit Year Dinner.

What an interesting once-in-a-year tradition and the whole week festival to enjoy. It's really the big thing for all Chinese. My only regret this year is, again, for not being able to celebrate the Lunar New Year with my own family in Indonesia. It seems that I have skipped celebrating the bliss of Lunar New Year with my folks for about four or five times already. My new year resolution this year is to celebrate the upcoming Dragon Year in Malang with my family. My husband affirmed this already.

Gong Xi Fa Cai, everyone.

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