Saturday, February 20, 2010

How we used to Celebrate our Chinese New Year...

Food had always played an important part in my mother's life whether she was cooking for her family or preparing traditional ceremonial food for her gods. I cannot help but remember the time and effort she took to celebrate the Emperor of Heaven's birthday which incidentally falls on this Sunday. Looking back, it's the merriment and atmosphere around the house that stand out in my memory. Even as a child, I could tell a feast day was coming. For days, the grown-ups were all talking about food preparation. Soon the sights, sounds and smells of food would waft around the house. When the special day was almost upon us, the kitchen would be busy with extra help from aunts to our neighbours and even older children were assigned to polish the pair of candle sticks and the big brass josstick urn with brasso. At mealtimes, our house would end up like a bustling eating-house and inevitably turned into a gambling den with two tables of mahjong and a table of "Si Seck Pai" in the evening. Everyone seemed so happy and content. This was that rare occasion when grown ups with unbelievable patience would put up with the whole neighbourhood of children running amuck in the house, staying up late in the night and letting off a fire cracker or two to scare away the scrawny stray dogs looking for the food scraps amongst the festive pile of rubbish in the street. Like all other mothers in our neighbourhood, my mother would say "Eat all you want," in their incredibly amiable tone of voice, even it was her umpteen time to fill up the octogon lacquer candy tray with kuih kapit (love-letter), kuih bangkit and kuih budu (kay nui koh). Perhaps, it was these festive occasions that I began to learn how good food makes everyone feel. Even our scrawny strays seemed to be wagging their tails happily with excitement.


  1. phil, i think you meant kuih bahulu. i had a female colleague who calls it kuih bulu (bulu is pubic hair).

  2. Hi YG,
    That's an interesting point of reference.:O I wanted to edit the word after reading your comment. But I decided to leave the word "budu" in my original text so that others can follow what we're talking about.

  3. Hi Mr Wong

    Your narration of the old days on how we celebrated the Chinese New Year and the close bond of friendliness and respects among relatives and neighbours and the laxity enjoyed by the young children during the festive season bring back much pleasant memory of the time in Singapore when traditons were more closely observed and cherished, Thanks for the memory.

  4. Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for your visit to my blog. Most of all, thanks for your verification to this tale. Alas, most of our festive celebrations have been overtaken by the our present day comsumerism.