I have never celebrated the Chinese New Year without the presence of my relatives.
For over three decades, the Lunar New Year was about buying new clothes, returning to our hometown, enjoying the company of loved ones and stuffing our face silly.
But this was no ordinary year.
Having a reunion dinner with only six people was a blessing and an eye-opener.
With a no-holds-barred attitude, my mother and I were determined to prepare an eight-course dinner, although deep down we knew it was not going to be easy.
As our family has been diligently attending annual reunion dinners at Restoran Chen Fatt in Seri Kembangan following the demise of my grandmother 10 years ago, mum and I thought it would mean a lot for dad if we tried to whip out some of Ah Ma’s special dishes.
The dishes include ikan tempra (Nyonya sweet and sour fish), prawn sambal, chicken curry and tau yu bak (braised pork in dark sauce).
The preparation and cooking began as early as 11am and the final dish was ready at 6.45pm.
It was exhausting, but seeing the smile on my dad’s face was priceless.
As we dined, we video-called some of our relatives and exchanged greetings.
My other half, a big fan of yee-sang, also made sure the family had our ‘Huat-Ah’ moment even if it meant he had to brave the storm to pick up the speciality dish from the neighbourhood restaurant.
And the feeling of a different kind of reunion dinner quickly disappeared the moment midnight struck.
The magnificent display of fireworks and the loud sound of firecrackers in the neighbourhood suddenly brought back a sense of normalcy.
My four-year-old who was standing at the balcony ‘watching the show’ thought it fit to shout “Happy New Year, Gong Xi Fa Cai, thank you, thank you, it’s so beautiful” each time a firework lit up the sky.
He said he was thanking those who made the celebration special.
“This is the best Chinese New Year, ever,” he added as those at home burst out laughing.
I didn’t know what to say.
It was at that moment that I realised even the smallest of gatherings can bring about the biggest celebration with the right amount of fun, laughter and positivity.
Keong Hee Huat Chye!