‘Good things are around the corner,’ says my sister via zoom.
‘Hmmm, which corner, right or left? The way things have been, I hope they come at breaking speed. This world certainly deserves some positivity,’ was my sassy reply.
My sister and I grew up in a melting pot of cultures. No surprise considering our forefathers came from the four corners of the planet. In fact, across the generations, we have benefited immensely. We have been given the opportunity to learn and adapt different cultures, traditions, and languages.
Today we are celebrating Chinese New Year, also known as ‘Spring Festival’. It marks the beginning of the new lunar year. It is not a religious celebration. It is a time when we pay respect to our parents and grandparents and a great opportunity for family gathering and to indulge in delicious cooking and sweet delicacies.
When we were young, one of our duties was to decorate all doors and windows with red paper strips. Red being the symbol of luck, joy, and happiness. But first we had to vacuum and sweep the past, saying goodbye to the old year. Then we would light incense and welcome wealth and prosperity.
In the same way as we would do at Christmas, we would leave sweets, water, and beans to Zào Jūn, the Kitchen God. He would visit the mortal world before reporting back to the Jade Emperor about the situation of each family. But unlike Christmas, the Jade Emperor delivered good or bad fortune not only to children but also to adults.
Long gone are the days when I followed strict tradition. Maybe I have become lazy. Or maybe it is no longer a necessity now that our branches are spread throughout the world. Whatever it is, I still delight myself in the joy of eating. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen, I find it easier to pick something from the shops.
Last year I spent the day in China Town. The news of a pandemic had not yet reached us. We were fearless and in high spirits. The streets were alive with noisy parades of lion and dragon dances. Fireworks were set off to scare away any evil spirits for the coming months. Incense and offerings adorned the entrance of every shops. Performers, tourists, and locals all came together to be part of the soul and tradition of the Chinese community.
A year on, a lot has changed. Restaurants and small shops are closed. China Town is deserted. Not a soul around, not even a stray cat. No fireworks to leave my ears ringing, no lantern lit. Gongs are silent, lions do not dance to the sound of the drums. It is quiet. Far too quiet.
Nothing will frighten away monsters. The evil spirit will hang around in the coming months.
This is the start of the year of the Ox. The rest of the year does not look promising. Are we are doomed?
I settle down to a quiet evening, looking forward to scrolling through social media and catching up with the other side of my world. While nothing is happening here, somewhere else must be busy. I can celebrate with some spring rolls and noodles.
20.00. The oven timer goes off at the same time as the dinner gong. For the past hour, a delicious aroma has been emanating from the kitchen, saucepans have been banging and the oven whooshing. My young chef has put a lot of thoughts and care in this sumptuous culinary feast: sweet and sour chicken, sticky chicken wings, fried fish, steamed bao buns, nems, red bean mochi, nian gao . . .
“Wait! Let me take a food selfie!”
“Come on, let’s eat!”
Time to say goodbye to the past. Prosperity, happiness, and good fortune are around the corner.
新年快乐 . . . Xīnnián kuàilè . . . Happy New Year!