Alan See, The Armoury
Chinese New Year is all about family, tradition and connections. Typically CNY is a flight to Penang where my father’s side of the family is. There are plenty of memories there. Childhood CNY was a day consisting of a long arduous journey cramped in the back of my dad’s car with my two sisters, starting before the crack of dawn, and bustling down single lane village roads, stopping only for Ramly burgers (the pit stop special in Malaysia), special regional roadside snacks, and toilet breaks. Mom also packed massive tupperwares full of her special home-made chicken curry, which we would dive into with some bread if we were hungry on the road. The arrival at the Penang Ferry, which typically was around sunset (which stopped service Dec 31st 2020), would signal the end of the road trip. We would be able to step out of the car and stretch our legs while appreciating the sun setting on Penang Island.
Arrival at grandma’s would be a welcome with Asam Laksa, Lor Bak and various home-made specials. Then it would be scurrying to get showered and our hair washed before the stroke of midnight (because you don’t wash the luck away on CNY!) before jumping into bed for the night.
Morning of CNY, other than exhausting our limited Chinese to wish our parents the best (our Chinese has since improved), we would start our journey of visiting all of the 16 grand uncles and aunties. Every auntie or uncle had their signature home-made Penangite snack and lunch would also consist of a visit to Penang Rd for the famous Laksa and Cendol dessert. Afternoon would be a continuation of the visits and of course finishing with dinner and our favourite CNY dish “Lo Hei” which requires everyone to yell out new year wishes while causing a massive mess mixing a big mix of veggies, noodles and salmon.
Of course, one of the best parts would be to start opening our red packets and count our money which we had received for the day! This would typically be done after dinner when we had returned home. Something that is rarely mentioned as well is that gambling is a massive part of Chinese New Year festivities also. My family typically would have a few rounds of cards before ending the night with a midnight snack from local street hawkers!
I typically have my traditional Cheongsam (Chinese long robe) but this year might be something a bit warmer since I am stuck in Hong Kong! It is also a bit strange as my family are scattered across Asia and traveling is not possible. However, there are definitely special people I will be spending the festivities with! Zoom celebrating will definitely be part of the start of the year!
KEVIN SEAH, The Kevin Seah Group
Chinese New Year is a time for the family and extended families. Most of us are too occupied with our own lives and work and so it’s the only time where we will all meet up to have meals and catch up on stories of our lives for the past year.
We usually celebrate by visiting our families over the first two days. We will have a major feast from the morning to night with everyone. We will give out red packets to our parents and the younger ones and unmarried in the family.
As Singapore is a tropical country and especially hot during the Chinese New Year period, I usually keep myself cool with a linen shirt or cotton short sleeve shirt because of the traveling from one place to another. Red is an auspicious color for us Chinese and usually I will wear something red or fun like a printed shirt with linen trouser.
Due to the Covid situation in Singapore, we are only allowed 8 visitors a day per family compared to the usual countless guests and family we would normally entertain. This year will be quieter with less visits. Immediate family members will be of course top priority and because I have a week’s break, I can take time to visit the rest of the family over the week.
Tobe Fong, Co-Founder of Craftsman Co.
Chinese New Year is not only the same as the global new year being a time for self-reflection and planning for a fresh start, but it is also the most celebrated festival among our race because families would gather together to enjoy a lot of good food and drinks to have a really good time. CNY means a lot to me because I went to boarding school in The States and growing up I skipped a few years of celebration, which could’ve been spent with my family. So in the past few years where I have had the chance to celebrate, I have really embraced it.
Growing up, we loved CNY not only for the delicious food we got to enjoy (nian gao and turnip cake!) either at a restaurant or at home, but also because it was the time we got to receive red envelopes (li shi) from our family and friends. It is a CNY custom that the married person needs to give the younger generation a red envelope as it symbolizes good luck. Who doesn't love to receive li shi? I remember my sister and I had to wait about two weeks before we got to unwrap our red envelopes and counted our money, as the elderly believe this is a good symbol of you being able to gather the money rather than not being able to keep any money in the new year. As we got older, my friends and I would gather together and entertain with some Chinese gambling games for fun, such as "Chor Da Di" and Prawns & Anchors.
In the last couple years, society might have started dressing down, especially after Covid-19 hit us. While we most likely won't be wearing tailoring to this gathering, it's a tradition to always wear red. Depending on the weather, I would most likely wear our rust Indian linen Hemingway safari or tobacco suede Grant A1 with our Gurkha chinos and Baudoin & Lange loafers. I was at my friend Jemmy's birthday party last week and he was wearing a Cheongsam, which kind of triggered me to get one made after he and Alan looked so good in it!
During Chinese New Year's Eve, I will just spend it at my mom's with my sister and some of my mom's friends who will come to visit us. Then the first three days of CNY, we'd go around to visit our relatives and friends to spend this festive year.
Buzz Tang, Co-founder of The Anthology