Reminiscing my childhood days, especially Chinese New Year, always put a smile on my face. Whether it was good times or not so good times.
I remembered my family was very poor. My father was a baker and had to feed a family nine which comprised my parents and my six siblings. On normal days, we would have sweet potato porridge. And sometimes its rice with dark soy sauce stirred into it. On better days, we had some plain egg omelette cos two eggs can make one big flat omelette and we lick our platter clean.
For Chinese New Year, mum would buy a bale of cloth and my eldest sister, with her trial and error skill, would sew the dress for us. We could only choose bows or pockets or some ruffles. I love pockets 🙂 And for haircuts, we would line up for our turn and the same sister who cuts the cloth also cuts our hair. At the end of it, we all had almost similar hairstyles – looked like she placed a Chinese rice bowl over our head and cut along the rim of the bowl. But we were happy!
Mum would order a crate of Green Spot orange juice but we were not allowed to have it cos it was for guests only. It would be poured into little glasses for the guests and we would tip the bottle over to try and get the few drops that may be left in the bottle.
Mum would make traditional Hainanese sweets like the rice puff squares with peanuts (Ho Gong) and some sugared crullers (Hee How) – Hainanese pronunciation of the items.
On Chinese New Year’s eve, Mum would cook boiled chicken and pork, fried fish and rice for prayers for our ancestors. She also bought some fruits and a steam cake. We look forward to this special once a year treat. After prayers, mum would make rice balls and chop up the chicken for us to enjoy with the rest of the food.
On Chinese New Year’s Day, when we woke up first thing in the morning, mum would pop a candy into our mouths before we could utter a word cos she knew that the first words that would come out after that would be “So Sweet” which would bring a good start to the New Year. We never got to keep the hong baos given by our guests. Mum told us in advance that the hong baos had to be given to her as soon as we recieved them so that she could “recycle” it. The only hong bao we had was from mum and it had two ten cents coins.
Our neighbours would hang long strings of fire crackers with bamboo poles and tried to outdo each other as to the length of their fire crackers. Of course they are the ones who are better off to afford this luxury. We enjoyed the merriment free of charge.
When my older siblings started work, we had more in terms of food and drinks. But the fun and enjoyment of kampong style Chinese New Year celebrations would never change.
I would trade my boutique bought dresses and tasty pineapple tarts for the dress with pockets and mum’s Ho Gong and Hee How for that yesterday once more!
I am sure many of you had your fair share of fun so do share them with us.
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Shen Ti Jian Kang and Wan Shi Ru Yi to everyone!