Chinese New Year Eve

It’s Chinese New Year Eve, which is always big deal for the average Chinese so that each and every one of us would expect to be required to be somewhere at a particular time to do something, to eat a meal at least, to have pictures taken and so on before moving on. I can recall so many incidents including many that I would rather have forgotten but probably never could for different reasons.

Tonight turned out to be somewhat different. As a start, Su had decided that we would not go anywhere or invite anyone to our place. We began planning dinner before 5pm so that by 7pm we were halfway through and almost finished. It was a dinner for two with a good bottle of Bordeaux which we had acquired from the son of my very good friend Anthony shortly after 2009 when Su and I got married.  But what was pertinent was that we had decided to finish early and hopefully retire early so that we would be ready for one or two things tomorrow. To ensure that we could do that, we had gone for the volunteer Covid tests beforehand, Meifoo having come into news since around 20 January when a resident or a teacher who had taught in a school in Meifoo got infected with Omicron so that residents in Meifoo were encouraged to go for testing, which we did and were found negative. But to be cautious, we have been avoiding crowds or having parties at home since. In order that we can visit Su’s parents in Laguna City tomorrow and some other friends elsewhere, Su booked more tests for us both on 30 January, which also turned out negative – no drama, as Su had told her friends – so that we are content and well prepared to go anywhere during the CNY without having the mental burden that we would be a source. Let me add a caveat here quickly: this is Su; I don’t have such burden and probably never would.  

Frankly, I have found all these rather unnecessary and disconcerting, and I agree with my bother Mike Rowse who wrote a piece in SCMP yesterday that the government policy was to protect the unvaccinated at the expense of inconveniencing the law abiding and the converted people like us who had all three jabs and who have been following the rules to the letter. But never mind; we live in an imperfect world. I was rather upset, for example, when I was taking the MTR from Meifoo to Yaumatei yesterday for our “volunteer” testing that I was in a rather full car and sitting next to a guy who coughed every ten seconds. Given the choice, I would rather have taken my electric car which would cost me next to nothing to go anywhere, implying that I would not have gone through the hassle of booking the test and going for it, knowing full well that I would almost be tested 100% negative.

But what can one say? And I won’t discuss the merits or demerits of Carrie’s Report on the birthday party saga announced today or its aftermath. I know most of these people, including of course, Carrie.

Going back in time, CNY Eve as I had said, has always been big deal. In the very early days, when I was very small, I would await the boiled water for a hot bath before I went to bed. I would wake up, fresh and happy, to get into some clean and new clothes and sit outside the hut to watch people letting off firecrackers and watching other people wearing their best clothes talking to each other. As far as CNY Eves were concerned, we would remain quiet and composed, expecting that something would happen the following day.

Still on CNY Eves, as I can recall the years when I was older, these were always occasions when Mom would make me help out in producing turnip cakes or other products required for the following day, Indeed, I would have helped in shredding the turnips for hours and assisted in mixing the products with flours and other ingredients before having them steamed. I was never sure of the outcome, but I would never care.

Fast forward a number of years when I was in the mid Sixties, I recall going to the CNY end fairs in Victoria Park – which was cancelled last minute this year – with my Wah Yan classmates and buying something, whatever it was. I bought a tie, my first, on one of the occasions, which I kept for many years.

Fast forwarding even further to the year when I was already holding down my first and only job in the early Seventies, I was having an extended and rather long telephone conversation with someone on CNY Eve, possibly from the telephone booth at Old Halls of HKU. It was distracting and mind boggling. I was living in Shaukiwan at the time. I was also driving my first car which was a Fiat 1963 L. The next day, I had to take the car somewhere else because it was blocking traffic. As I was going down a side street, the car hit a pedestrian. It was New Year Day. There was a lot of kafuffle, which I could describe in another post, but which stay in my mind for a long time even today.

Many of the CNY Eve dinners since had to do with what Mum wanted to do or not to do on the evening or the morning after, but on which we had no idea or why she had wanted it that way. But that was some time back; and I am getting on. Maybe I would talk about it in my sequel.

There were other more pleasant moments of CNY Eves that I had been aware of, mostly related to dinners and what happened afterwards such as how some of us – mainly family members – got so drunk and tried to create or fabricate mahjong results during or after the dinners, but who cares.  I have always held the view that as long as someone can remember the details of what he or she thinks happens and is able to give an account or tell a good story, it would be good. After all, life is short.

I would hope to talk to you again soon.

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