Kampua Talk: Up all night

Kampua Talk

Friday, February 16, 2007

Up all night

A reunion dinner is the binding force of all Chinese families. In Chinese, it is called "Eve Of Dawn" which means the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. At the place where I came from, we called it "Sa Chap Meh" (in Hokkien, means 30th night). The last day of the Chinese lunar calendar is marked by this important meal so it is crucial that every family member return home for this occasion. It was a taboo to have one or more family members absent at the dinner table.

But having brought up in a fully Catholic family, we don't believe in such thing as taboo, but for the sake of tradition i.e. Chinese tradition, it became an unwritten official rules that everybody in the family must be present on Sa Chap Meh. We always say the 'grace before meals' anyway.

While having the reunion dinner, do not eat hastily - the longer the time spent at the table, the better. It signifies unity and the long-lasting relationship of the family. A good news for all the aunties and ah sohs for they can sampat and kay poh longer and torture the younger generations with questions like "Got boyfriend/girlfriend or not?", "When want to get married?" or comparing the price of fish in the market (Don't ask me why fish).

Moreover, the dishes must convey auspicious meanings. Dishes that bear good tidings are radish (pronunciation similar to 'a good start' in Cantonese), a type of edible weed that looks like a tuft of hair called fatt choy (pronounced as 'wealth and properity' in Cantonese) and fish (sounds the same as 'having excess' in Mandarin). Thus the saying "Nien nien you yu" was being directly translated into "Every year got fish" or "Tahun-tahun ada ikan" when we were kids.

But the ancient Chinese went to great extents to make sure that their aspirations came true. I bet if they heard how we distorted the translation, we'd be dragged to the altar of execution without mercy! LOL!!! That was why they would buy a live fish and leave it swimming happily in a basin of water before dinner because 'swimming fish' sounds the same as 'having excess wealth' in Chinese. It would then be cruelly mutilated while it is still alive. Yummy!

During this transition from the old year to the new, it would be a taboo to have an empty or half-filled rice urn. The rice urn must be filled to the brim and stuck with a piece of red paper that has the Chinese characters 'always full' written on it. They believe that this ritual will transfer the rice from the previous year to the next, which also means that the family will have excess wealth and their rice urn will be perpetually full. After the elaborated reunion dinner, comes the moment that everybody is waiting for.

The elders must present the greedy kids with money-filled red packets or ang pows. But the money cannot be used for a new Gameboy or Pokemon cards; it must be deposited into the piggy bank because to have it empty on the eve of Chinese New Year is a taboo. After depositing the money, you should also stick a piece of red paper with the Chinese characters 'always full' on it. You will then be blessed with a constant supply of pocket money throughout the year. I wonder why I am broke throughout the year...?

As Chinese New Year springs around, homes are normally decorated with scrolls of auspicious greetings to usher in good tidings. There is also the tradition of staying up late on the eve of Chinese New Year. Why torture yourself? Because to stay up late on this special night is believed to enhance your parents' longevity and health. If the previous year had been an especially horrendous one, it would be a good idea to stay up until dawn. This is believed to be an effective method for improving one's luck. So, kids...you are allowed to stay past your bed time! This time your parents won't chase you up the room with rotan.

Seriouly ar? Watch lots of DVD movies on the night before Chinese New Year. No Glitter or Gigli please - you want to stay awake, remember?

**This post is supposed to be posted tomorrow but I've got the inspiration, so what the heck!**

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Blogger Taiko said...

Hello.... happy new year :)

3:45 PM  
Blogger CLare said...

Hi, taiko...
Happy New Year to you too!!! =>

3:48 PM  

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