KUCHING: This year, many Sarawakians will be celebrating Chinese New Year (CNY) away from their families as they are unable to return to their hometowns due to Covid-19.
There are also some who are afraid to return as Covid-19 cases keep rising, as well as being afraid of bringing the virus home and spreading it to family members.
For 30-year-old Edwin Liew from Kuching, who is currently working in Singapore, this year will be the first time for him not being able to see his parents for CNY.
“I feel sad as I cannot go back to be with my family for CNY. Usually, I would return to Kuching before CNY so that I can celebrate it with them earlier,” he told New Sarawak Tribune.
However, Liew, who has been in Singapore since 2014, said he is still glad to be able to celebrate CNY with his sister who is also in Singapore.
“We will have a simple dinner but it definitely won’t be like the reunion dinners that we used to have during the eve of CNY back home,” he said.
He added that his sister will be preparing a few must-have dishes, such as fish which symbolises surplus and fortune.
“What I do miss the most about CNY is going on vacation as one of my family’s traditions is to go out of the country during CNY,” he said.
Liew hoped that the Covid-19 situation would subside by year end so that he can travel back to meet his parents.
Meanwhile, for Malcolm Lau from Sibu who is working in Kuching, he is unable to return as Sibu is currently a red zone for Covid-19, and he does not want to take the risk of spreading the virus to his family.
“The CNY celebration this year is definitely different and quite sad for me as I am unable to return home.
“Normally, I would go back to celebrate it with my mother in Sibu, and on the first day of CNY we would go down to Sarikei to visit my grandparents there,” he said.
Thus, 29-year-old Lau said he will be celebrating it with his girlfriend here, and had already made preparations such as going for a haircut and shopping for new clothes.
“I do hope that the Covid-19 situation in Sibu would get better soon, and hopefully after CNY I can go back for a while to visit my mother,” he said.
He added that his elder brother and younger sister, who are outside of Sarawak, also could not return for the celebration.
With those not being able to return to their hometowns for CNY, this also means that they would be missing out on the reunion dinner on the eve of CNY, which is the most important part of the celebration.
The reunion dinner is where family members from near and far would gather to have dinner to usher in the new year, where they also reaffirm the love and respect, they have for each other.
During the reunion dinner, families would normally toss the ‘yee sang’ — a traditional dish that symbolises good luck, prosperity, health, and all things auspicious.
The significance of tossing it is to wish for good luck and happiness.
Other dishes such as abalone soup, pork, chicken, mixed vegetables, fish, duck, longevity noodles, and Chinese dumplings are often served at the gathering.
For more traditional Chinese families, they would ‘invite’ their deceased ancestors to join them and place offerings on the family altar, while Chinese who are Christians would normally offer prayers for them.
On the first day of CNY, children would pay respect to their parents and elders and red packets or ‘ang pow’ are given by parents or elders to children, as well as to those who are not married.
It is also customary for close family members and friends to visit each other.
For those who do not know, CNY lasts for 15 days and on the final night known as Chap Goh Mei, families would gather for a grand meal.
A well-known tradition associated with Chap Goh Mei is for unmarried women to throw oranges into the river in hopes of finding a good husband one day.
However, with Covid-19 still lurking around, many of these activities cannot be held. But thanks to the advancement of technology with apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Zoom, families and friends from near and far could still celebrate together virtually.