A Quiet CNY

Before I know, we are a week into another Chinese New Year, this time the Year of the Dragon, now more fashionably known as the Year of the Loong. Going through a Chinese New Year used to be big deal for most families. The rituals began at least a week before the year started, with deep cleaning for most of almost everything and everywhere, preparation of special food, and if the household could afford it, acquiring new clothes and a pair of new shoes for all kids, the new clothes would be worn for at least a week to ten days into the new year and the shoes for the whole of the year. Traditionally, our household would cook a big pot of congee with assorted meat and goodies which went well with other CNY food. Our Mother would get us up early because one of her students, who was the eldest son of Mrs. Lam, our landlady, often turned up shortly after 7 am to offer New Year greetings, more due to force of habits than out of respect for our Mother. It became a private joke between siblings.

Then we all had our families and CNY was often a noisy affair, but sometimes not necessarily harmonious, but over time, we had all learned to paper over any potentially unhelpful exchanges of words to avoid unhappy incidents. Between 2000 and 2006, we lost our Mother, Rosita and our Father, in succession, and CNY was observed somewhat differently with each death. In general, Margaret had taken a lead role in hosting the main event, until and unless she did not feel well, as was the case this year.  For some years now, our routines for the first day of CNY were as follows. Su and I would attend Morning Mass at Ricci Hall at 7:30 am, followed by breakfast with a community of some close friends and families, including our god children, when we would take pictures with the priests and with each other as we handed out red packets to the kids. By 9 am, we would be at Lyttleton Road to say hello to Ko Ying and Pat. We would not stay there long because Ko Ying had their rituals to visit his father’s grave with flowers on this day. We would then move to Margaret’s place in Pokfulam in the years she was well and we would normally meet up with my siblings, nephew and niece, etc. We would then make our way to Laguna City to visit Su’s parents and have lunch with Su’s siblings, including her sister in law and her daughter. After lunch, we often returned to Margaret’s place and stayed there to meet others and have more food and wine. In short, Day One of CNY was normally long and tiring.

This year was slightly different.  Su decided to have a special CNY Eve dinner at Laguna City with her parents, which we did.  We were back again on Day One to have lunch with the rest of the SIM’s with her brother as the principal chef this time. We skipped the normal Day One routines because neither the KO’s nor Margaret was ready to meet us. My nephew called while we were having lunch to give us advanced notice that he and his wife, and my niece and her friend would come to Mei Foo later in the afternoon, without being too specific with the ETA. We were cruising home happily when Su’s Mother called. She found my phone. With GPS assistance, I doubled back to collect it before returning to Mei Foo. I took a nap, in full confidence that the young relatives would be late. They were. It was an enjoyable evening and we had the usual CNY food and bubblies.

Day Two of CNY was Sunday. We went for the 9:15 am Mass after which we met our Church friends and god children and gave our red packets, but had to leave quickly less the car would be blocking others. Our next stop was Airside at Kai Tak where my niece Joan and her friend would be waiting for a table for dim sum for Anthony and his modern family. We decided to leave the car at Mei Foo, which turned out to be a good call. We arrived Kai Tak around 11:30 am by which time Joan and her friend had been queuing for more than 30 minutes. Our table came up shortly after noon, but it took Anthony and others nearly an hour to arrive, so that the lunch – which was good – didn’t finish until 2:30 pm. We then had a stroll nearby. It was a pleasant and sunny day. Alas, Margaret and Francis and their spouse couldn’t turn up; and I failed to make contact with any one of them. We had a pleasant surprise that evening: Su discovered that my study was a vantage point for viewing and taking pictures of the fireworks display. The photos she had taken were better and clearer than most others we had seen.

We visited the KO’s on Day Three and had some good wine and CNY food. Three of my mentees visited me on Day Four. Ruby and Ashley couldn’t stay long, but Apple stayed on for more food and bubblies. We arranged to meet again in April for my next birthday. Day Five was Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. I went for the 7:30 am Mass at Ricci and took Su to the special Valentine dinner I had booked at ABC. On Day Six, we had dinner at Su’s favourite restaurant with my young friends, two of whom had brought girlfriends. It was a lovely meal, with very good food and plenty of wine. We couldn’t finish the wine between the nine of us and had to bring home some unfinished whiskies.

Today being Day Seven is everyone’s birthday. Su and I had lunch appointments with different people and we decided to have very simple dinner tonight. Tomorrow we would resume the standing Saturday dim sum lunch with the usual suspects. It was four weeks since we last met the group.

All in all, we had a rather quiet start for this CNY, which I hope is good for our constitutions.

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