Reunited this Chinese New Year, and it feels so good

After a tumultuous two years, gatherings among family members this Chinese New Year have been a rewarding and eye-opening experience.

Having not met my paternal relatives for more than 700 days, the celebration this year went beyond observing traditions associated with the Lunar New Year.

It was, more importantly, a moment to finally make up for lost time – no thanks to the pandemic.

Despite the relaxation of standard operating procedures, many remained cautious, due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases, stemming from the Omicron variant.

For safety reasons, some parents insisted that their children and grandchildren not return to their hometowns, while others scaled back on the number of relatives joining in the celebrations.

Just like many other households, the number of people present during my family’s reunion dinner, and the first-day celebrations, was much smaller.

While the dishes served during the reunion dinner were similar to that of yesteryears, the presence of unvaccinated little ones meant dining out was an option best reserved for another occasion.

Familiarity was nevertheless apparent, as we ordered several dishes from our usual reunion dinner spot, Restoran Chen Fatt in Seri Kembangan, Selangor – including its famed fruit yee sang.

The conversation at the dinner table during our reunion dinner varied from who’s where and doing what, to sharing our frustrations of not being able to purchase the all-time CNY crowd favourite drink – Anglia Shandy.

Yes, that fizzy, light, lemonade beer that goes well with peanuts, kuih kapit, and prawn crackers, was missing.

“It’s fine if you cannot get Anglia, but even Jolly Shandy was missing from the shelves … that’s just bizarre,” one of my cousins lamented.

“You can find it online, but the price is almost double,” another cousin shared.

I suppose living without shandy is a new normal many families must come to terms with this year. Then again, perhaps it’s something we can live without.

The elders also lamented about the soaring prices of items in the market.

The chef (my aunt) said the price of prawns was RM80 per kg this time around.

“What would usually cost RM40 per kg, is almost double in price every new year,” she said, adding that it was also not easy to get chicken.

“Well, if KFC can run out of chicken … I suppose we too, must learn to adapt,” I blurted.

Jokes aside, this new year has taught many that we must continue to anticipate, adapt, and evolve, in order to survive.

As Omicron continues to surge, it’s best to be safe than sorry.

It also shows that the ‘minimalist’ approach – from downsized celebrations to more intimate reunion dinners – will soon be a regular, acceptable norm.

With no end in sight in the battle against Covid-19, learning to live in ‘isolation’ (just like tigers) for a little bit longer – until it’s safe – will be our best bet this season.

On behalf of my Hokkien family, Keong Hee Huat Chye to all of you.

Tagged with: