This is the Year of the Rabbit.
Rooster vs. Rabbit
In case you are not aware, in the Chinese zodiac, the placid and gentle Rabbit directly conflicts with the cantankerous and irrational Rooster. The Rooster’s best friends are the Snake and the Ox – the latter of which is understandable but the former of which is absolutely contradictory as we often read in fables and other stories that the snake usually devours the chicken whole before so much as a cluck can be heard. But how can two domestic animals be at odds with each other even in the celestial world is beyond imagination – so we leave it at that.
And yes, the astrologists and the feng shui masters have prophesied doom and gloom for the Rooster this year. Big deal! But here’s a small tip (and if you’re a believer) – if you are of marriageable age and would like to propagate the family line, do remember that children born in the Year of the Dog seems to have the better end of the luck cycle judging from the annual predictions. I’d try for a Dog kid if I could, but the last one was quite recent in 2006 and back then, I was certainly not in the position to even help change the diapers let alone ensure a steady supply of good quality milk powder specially formulated for the very wee ones.
Excitement over the New Year
(different occasion, similar perception)
As we get older and get jobs and so on, it’s hard to get indescribably excited over Chinese New Year festivities. We have too many categories of people to please in our daily life and it’s simply getting out of hand if one of them choose to play hardball with you, if you get my drift.
However, as kids, we relished the prospect of cousins coming over to play video games and safer pyrotechnics products while hoping to boost the lunch money by over at least 300% in the form of red packets. Best of all, reunion dinners always had the best spread and victuals which only appear on special occasions.
We anticipate the screening of Chinese movies which run from the eve to the 4th day of New Year, with Jackie Chan and Jet Li ruling the roost with kung fu flicks and also other sublime comedies which only appear during that time of the year.
The preparations leading to the New Year is actually the ones that we look out for – the shopping for clothes, decorations, food stuff and the early trips to the wet market for fresh produce. Even the Chinese New Year songs sounded more cheery back then. Then we stop by an isolated vendor to get our stocks of fireworks (before the ban was in place). Dad would bring home some packets of firecrackers and carefully string them together for the evening show. These packets are always the same – the ‘Fuk, Luk, Sau’ brand with other celestial beings adorning the covers. If money permits, we could have the longer ones complete with the giant crackers packed neatly at the end with an auspicious message wrapped inside for special effects.
Sometimes after the reunion dinner, after the guests have left, we could still do our last-minute shopping at Parkson Damansara Jaya. When my late grandfather was still alive, he usually comes to my house for the dinner until these sessions stopped in 1998 when he moved to a very remote part in Cheras whereby it would be more convenient for my aunt to take over the responsibility. While not verbose in nature, he did have his own way of saying things which left an impact.
Life was sweet.
As I get older though, I have the irrational tendency to get irritated over these things. For example, I yearn for more sleep rather than to go to the market so early. Everytime I split open my wallet to eject some hard-earned paper to pay towards the festivities, I was always silently thinking when I might recoup such sums. I’d rather be playing on my PS3 (even though I feel that the games are actually just passable) rather than to go out for last-minute shopping to capture that déjà vu. The streets are largely silent these days with the fireworks and firecrackers ban unless you are feeling generous towards paying the appropriate people to let you play. Chinese New Year songs these days had annoying little girls screaming their rendition of classics. The quality of food these days simply fall short of standards set even five years ago. Prices of goods have also increased sharply which hit the wallet hard. We sleep early on New Year’s day as the Chinese movies these days are so serious in nature that we simply tune off because we don’t need further overdose of that. Red packets now hold nothing more than a symbolic gesture of goodwill and fortune. When we converse with relatives during the CNY visits, it was almost always about the economy, politics and careers as if they are experts in the subject matter. They also have the rueful observation that we only meet once a year which turns out to be ironic as we do live within easy travelling distance from another.
What I’ve learnt though – this is probably what our parents have gone through before. Amidst all that jaded feeling of celebrating a festival; the extra effort and money to commit to the preparations, they have provided the best so that the young ones may enjoy the biggest festival in Chinese culture. Reluctantly, I accept that the current generation should embrace the responsibility of passing on the best traditions of the New Year to the younger generation. Just as we reminisce the good times, so too we shall create better ones.