It's hard to believe that Chinese New Year is almost upon us and we shall be entering the year of the Rooster (my sign)...which makes me far too old...! I'm also about to celebrate my 21st Chinese New Year here in Singapore!
I remember clearly my first year here. Kindly taken by colleagues to their family reunion dinners and gatherings and being confused and embarrassed by the waves of ang bao (red packets containing money) that landed in my hand. Unfortunately by the time I got used to the idea and learned to look forward to receiving such gifts, I had got married! It was then my turn to hand out the ang bao to the vast numbers of kids and unwed family members, friends, acquaintances and strangers. But of course my 3 girls love it! Seeing their little bags bulge with red packets after a few days of 'visiting'. Their bank accounts ending up far healthier than my own...!
But money aside, it's a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family and friends that we fail to visit often enough during the year. My husband is the youngest of 10 children, so there is plenty of family and god-family to catch up with!
Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner
The reunion dinner is perhaps the most special. Held on the New Year's eve. The whole family squeezed around tables to cook all the wonderful goodies in the steamboat (a large cooking pot containing soup into which you drop your meat, seafood and veggies).
Last year it was my turn to prepare. I'm not sure how they all felt having their English sister-in-law prepare their sacred reunion dinner...! I've not been asked to do it again this year...not sure if that is any indication...haha!
Handling large numbers of people
Usually, if I am having large numbers of people over to eat, I opt for a buffet of cooked food. Or, if I can get away with it, finger food. But to have a sit down dinner is hard..! Apart from the usual problems of lack of furniture, lack of crockery and cutlery there is also the real problem of lack of space in our small living area.
People who know me, know that I like to have things looking 'just right'. Or as right as I can get them when preparing everything with only my two hands. But last year's reunion dinner had to be something different. It was a mishmash of bowls and plates, a paper table cloth along with an old white sheet, chairs, stools, tables of different heights...anything we could find! Furniture was shifted and our tables stretched through the living room to the kitchen. And even then we had to eat in two sittings..!
But all turned out well in the end! It is a lesson that I am continually trying to learn. Having good food and good company is all you really need! Once you're sat down eating and chatting, the tablecloths and wobbly stools pale into insignificance.
So, here's wishing all my Chinese friends and family a happy and prosperous year of the Rooster. Filled with love, laughter and good food!