Gong xi fa cai – Happy New Year

I unfortunately missed the part where I am to write a New Year post on 1 January 2016, but I now have the opportunity with the Chinese New Year that came in last night.

With the efforts in embracing our new friends and their cultures we have participated in all the very red festivities, including the lion dance and dragon parade a few weeks back. We have learnt much about their customs and superstitions. In our home my father was the only suspicious one and I think mom instilled it to keep the peace. “Don’t ask for money on race days! Don’t cry on race days and don’t open an umbrella inside the house!”

It is the year of the monkey, which can be seen on all the home deco and new year collateral. My kids have made and received ang pow, which are red envelopes with a monetary gift inside(money is never handed over in a white envelope – unless you wish to send ill wishes to the receiver). The monkey or images used on the front of the envelope are said to be sending you well wishes of long life and prosperity. I have had to endure a week of complaints as the zumba ladies have had to spring clean and prepare for the coming of the new year and all the guests visiting during open house. It is done to ensure that any bad spirits or omens hanging about are vanished. Guess the saying out with old and in with the new is apt.

New Years eve dinner last night was a Chinese buffet with all the trimmings. It was opened up with the tossing of the yee sang – traditional New Year meal consisting of raw salmon, assorted shredded vegetables and sauces. Each person takes a turn to toss it with chop sticks. Again a symbol of abundance and of prosperity. It is also knows as the family reunion dinner.

I successfully stayed awake until midnight with my boy and chef – copious amounts of green tea at dinner was my enabler. By the time that midnight came (heavens it gets harder each year), the skies were brightly lit with all the fireworks. I really couldn’t see much from our ground floor complex unit, but my big boy went to watch with his dad, whilst my baby was KO on the couch. Obviously I am not a supporter of all the fire crackers but tradition has it that the big bangs are to scare away the evil as it is afraid of the colour red, loud noises and fire. It is said that the first person who launches the first firework will receive good fortune. I hope that in time they will come to realise that the crackers do more harm to the animals and environment, than anything else.

When we visited our friends this morning we gifted our host with lokam (naartjies to Safas, but also called oranges and tangerines here), which is a gesture of goodwill and wealth. I laugh when my kids tell the other kids that they are naartjies and they say no they are oranges! You never gift in sets of 4 as this is seen as a representative of ill fortune. We feasted on a variety of cakes, biscuits, sweets and tea. Open homes are common for the coming days as it is an opportunity to meet with friends and families.

How Chinese New Year effects your every day life…I think that only the malls are open during this time with every other outlet closed. If you haven’t bought it already for the next 2 days you go without it. Hair salons, waxing studios and nail bars are closed for the next 10 days. Government departments are closed. Oh and a week before they all close, the prices go up by at least 50%. All my dance and fitness studios are closed. So my weight might increase by 50% too. Bleak. There is the Chinese New Year song that is played in stores and on radio ALL DAY LONG. Even my kids know the song and sing a long.

Do you need more convincing as to why Sarawak is such a special place and embraces all it’s races and religions:

  • We celebrate Chinese New Year.
  • All Catholic holidays are on the calendar and on Wednesday we visit St Peters Catholic Church Padugang for Ash Wednesday.
  • Gawai or Harvest Festival will happen at the end of May

For those friends who have immigrated and for those considering to do so, I encourage you to embrace the country and customs that you will live in. This is your new home. Join groups where you share the same interest. By doing so you will meet like minded people and make new friends. Arrange coffee dates with class kids parents’. Be active and involved. Do not be the expat that only socializes with fellow expats, whilst eating expat food. You will learn nothing! And eventually leave with no knowledge.

My 2 new words:

Kosong = no sugar (I have to use this all the time as they love a little sugar too much especially in the freshly pressed fruit or vegetable juices and particularly in their breads).

Kawan = friend or one whose company you enjoy. Luckily I have surrounded myself with many of these.

I can honestly say that it has been very interesting time here and certainly very festive with all the red lanterns and lights. The lion dancers and parades are spectacular.

Gong xi fa cai everyone.



5 thoughts on “Gong xi fa cai – Happy New Year

  1. Thank you so much Natalie. This is so exciting to get an insight into a different culture and the country. I will wait for your next installment with bated breath. Love and hugs Susan xxx


    1. Thank you Susan for always taking the time to read them. The next one is going to be about sport and schooling for kids here. It will be a little more controversial I think as it is now a matter of personal opinion.


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