I like this time of the year with CNY just around the corner.
It is great that this year’s CNY is in February because the festive mood is prolonged for a slightly longer period of time than if CNY had been in January. It is somewhat depressing to have Christmas in December and before you know it, CNY whisks past you in January and all you see is this long, plodding, sombrous stretch of the working year ahead.
Sounding melodramatic, I know. So what did I like about this time of the year? And what do I still like?
Looking forward to decadent, artery-clogging meals. Mom’s pig’s trotters in vinegar (I like the sweet-ish version, and I promise myself that I will learn how to cook this dish in 2010), braised sea cucumber with Chinese dried mushrooms and fa cai, pig’s stomach soup with fish maw and braised duck. My mother-in-law’s home-made ngor hiang (I know I should offer to help her mince the pork belly someday – machine-grounded meat will not do, but….). Steamboat after steamboat.
Tossing yusheng. Which genius invented this dish?
Stuffing myself with pineapple tarts and little spicy shrimp paste rolls. I am generally not big on CNY goodies. Love letters? Not really my thing. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention kueh lapis! I haven’t eaten this in a long while. I had an ex-colleague who baked fabulous kueh lapis in several flavours such as strawberry, chocolate, chempedak and prunes. I used to order the strawberry flavoured ones from her. Maybe I should go and get a box from Bengawan Solo this year.
Wearing a new set of pyjamas. Before I was married, my mom bought me new pyjamas for CNY every year – she has this weird idea that waking up on the first day of the lunar new year in a new pair of PJs is auspicious because it symbolises a fresh start – whatever. What kind of PJs did she foist on me? Nothing sheer, sexy or feminine, but a long T-shirt with a huge Winnie the Pooh (or Hello Kitty, or some Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle look-a-like) cartoon on the front…..Now, I just wear a new T-shirt to bed on CNY eve.
Shopping for new clothes. I stopped buying new clothes for CNY when I started University. But before that, shopping for new clothes was one of the highlights of CNY. I remember how my good friend and I dashed home from school on CNY eve, changed out of our uniforms and dashed to Orchard, shopped ourselves into oblivion hunting for new outfits before running home in time to eat reunion dinner. It was practically a ritual with the two of us for a number of years.
As I grew older, buying new clothes lost its shine. But I know friends who still practise the tradition of wearing red on the first day of the lunar new year and/or wear new outfits everyday for the entire 14-day period because they believe it to be an auspicious thing to do. Gosh, buying 14 new outfits..?? I couldn’t manage that although I like the ring of it.
Plant shopping at nurseries. I visit the nurseries located at Thomson Road and Hougang nearly every weekend to look at the blooming CNY plants in their vibrant and gorgeous colours. My mom always had pussy willows at home. As a kid, I loved removing the husks (is this the right word…??) from the buds despite my mom’s strict instructions that we should let them drop off on their own. After I got married, I continued with Mom’s tradition of buying pussy willows for my own place. I love camelias and I think I will buy a pot this year…
Sleeping on new bedsheets. My Mom always ensured that I had a new set of bedsheets to sleep in on CNY eve. The bedsheets were almost always printed with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White with Seven Dwarf motifs. She did not believe in spending money on bedsheets with a 3-digit threadcount. Nowadays, buying bedsheets is TBH’s domain and I don’t remember ever sleeping on brand new bedsheets during CNY…!!
Watching a Jacky Chan movie. Sadly, he no longer releases any CNY movie nowadays.
See? I said nothing about visiting relatives. We usually have a family lunch with my extended maternal side of the family on the second day either at my Mom’s place or at my aunt’s home. I like such family gatherings. It is the meet-only-once-a-year relatives that I just don’t see any point in visiting…oh well.
This year will be the first time in my life spending the first few days of the lunar new year away from home. I wonder if I will miss it all when I am away…