With much spare time with me more after the tiring week to Hong Kong and Southern China, I am now reading backdated newspapers as I hate to miss out anything published during my absence. I was reading Happy to stay home for Chinese New Year written by Dennis Chan, the deputy Money editor of The Straits Times Singapore, published by Sunday Star on 8th February 2015 when I felt as if I’d swallowed a huge bone accidentally.
Happy to stay home for Chinese New Year by Dennis Chan
THE re-emergence of the Year of the Goat signifies the completion of the full circle of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac since my younger daughter was born in 2003.
Differences in the Chinese Lunar and Solar calendars mean that while Chinese New Year falls on Feb 19 this year, the Year of the Goat kicked in on Wednesday.
Since 2003, the two girls and my wife have always accompanied me on the long drive north to my hometown in Ipoh to celebrate the Spring Festival with my parents and siblings. Yanrong was less than two and Yanbei barely two months when they made their first trip in 2003 and 2004 respectively. In this respect, both my daughters are seasoned travellers who can endure long rides without getting carsick.
This year, however, we are opting to stay put in Singapore as I want to spare Yanrong the discomfort of a long journey following a major back surgery last November. While I’m disappointed at missing the annual extended family reunion, I’m also more than a little relieved that I will not be jostling with the multitudes of people on the road during the festive season.
For this reason, Chinese New Year is often a stressful time for me. To miss as little school time as possible, it is necessary to travel during peak traffic periods.
Last year, we began our journey at 3am on the eve of the holiday because the previous year we were stuck in the car for two hours before the Woodlands Immigration Checkpoint. Traffic had built up from as early as 6am.
The unearthly hour headstart worked a treat as we cleared immigration in no time at all and reached Ipoh in about six hours. At its peak, the journey would have taken twice as long.
But coming back was a nightmare as we were caught in traffic at the Johor Baru checkpoint for nearly three hours.
To be sure, I shall miss my mum’s celebrated pen cai, a traditional reunion dish of braised scallops, sea cucumber, abalone, mushrooms, oysters and black moss. But that is no excuse for depriving myself of my favourite Chinese New Year delicacies. My wife, who is as stressed as I am over Chinese New Year travels, is glad we are staying home this year.
With fewer dishes to prepare, we shall have more time after dinner to soak in the Chinese New Year atmosphere in Chinatown. I have read stories of retailers clearing their STOCK of Chinese New Year goodies at a steep discount at the eleventh hour, but never experienced it myself. Maybe I’ll get to snare a bargain or two.
Yanrong and Yanbei are rather excited about the idea of midnight shopping – all they ever did in previous years was to watch old reruns of Chinese blockbuster movies on television and then try to sleep through the noise from sporadic firecracker explosions that reverberated around the neighbourhood where my parents live.
It may sound exciting as firecrackers are banned in Singapore, but I have found the inconsiderate and indiscriminate lighting of firecrackers deep into the night more nuisance than custom.
This year, my daughters can look forward to visiting their maternal grandparents on the first day of Chinese New Year. As they grow older and more independent, they are likely to welcome the chance to meet friends over the holiday period.
While this year is a departure from the norm, I reckon we are setting the precedent for a new tradition in how we celebrate Chinese New Year in the future. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
I just can’t agree with Dennis Chan’s lame excuses for not returning home to celebrate Chinese New Year with his family members in Ipoh. While I sympathize that his daughter have just been through a major back surgery after being diagnosed with scoliosis, using her , traffic conditions, congestions at check points as well as midnight bargain shopping at Chinatown as excuses, I find the element of selfishness in him.
There are now flights that link Singapore and Ipoh twice daily and even more flights that link Changi and Ipoh vis a vis KLIA, thus, traffic jams and grueling long hours on the road is no longer an excuse. Bargain shopping? Oh well, everyone loves a bargain but is that more important that reunion with family members?
Another side of his selfishness and lack of tolerance is also shown when he wrote that: It may sound exciting as firecrackers are banned in Singapore, but I have found the inconsiderate and indiscriminate lighting of firecrackers deep into the night more nuisance than custom.
However, what I can’t agree even more is that while everyone is encouraged to return home for Chinese New Year to be with dear and love ones, he is reckoning that by not going home is something very right to do and it will set the precedent for a new norm in how we should celebrate Chinese New Year. A new precedent where not going home for Chinese New Year with lame excuses is something that should be tolerated? What a crap!