Ring in the Year of the Dog with these festive facts!
Lanterns illuminate the night at Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur.
Time to celebrate
This year, the first day of Chinese New Year falls on Friday, 16 February. In Malaysia, the various fringe festivities continue well into the following weeks. The celebrations are steeped in age-old traditions and revolve around myths and legends, culminating with Chap Goh Meh on the 15th day of the New Year, with the single ladies throwing mandarin oranges into the lake or river in a quest for true love.
Fruits of gold
The juicy and fragrant mandarin orange is the fruit of choice during Chinese New Year. The pronunciation of its name (‘kam’) is thought to resemble ‘gold’ in the Chinese language, signifying wealth and prosperity. Available as early as January, these citrus gems are beloved by Malaysians of all races due to their sweet and refreshing taste. To many of us, the golden hues of the mandarins signal the arrival of the Lunar New Year and many joyful things to come.
Mandarin orange and ang pow are important elements of the festival.
An iconic dish served during Lunar New Year celebrations in Malaysia is the yee sang (pictured below). The tossing of this colourful salad is associated with ushering in abundance and welcoming a prosperous year ahead. With people heartily making wishes for an auspicious new year and mixing the ingredients with great vigour (the higher the toss the better), it’s a truly lively affair!
Yee sang: a kaleidoscope of colours, textures and flavours!
Other noteworthy traditional Chinese dishes are nian gao (sticky rice cake) and poon choi (a one-pot concoction brimming with a medley of flavours). Pineapple tart, kuih kapit (love letters) and kuih bangkit (delightful cookies which simply melt in the mouth) are also firm favourites, possibly owing to Peranakan or Nyonya culinary influences.
Colours of CNY
The symbol of happiness, good luck and a vibrant future, the colour red takes centre stage during Chinese New Year. From clothing items to decorations, red dominates the scene. Tangerine (a deep orange-red shade), yellow and gold are also prevalent, while black is avoided as it represents bereavement.
Just like any major festival in Malaysia, balik kampung or making the trip back to one’s hometown is the norm during Chinese New Year. Housecleaning needs to be done prior to the festival; once the living space is spick and span, brooms are whisked out of sight as sweeping the floor on Chinese New Year is considered inauspicious, akin to sweeping away good luck. Wearing new attire is a must, too, so everyone is dressed in their best during the festive period.
On New Year’s eve, family members gather for a reunion dinner. One interesting custom: although a fish dish featured in the sumptuous banquet is served whole, some portions of it should be left uneaten. The leftover fish symbolizes ‘surplus’, ensuring that the blessings received at the start of the year will last till year end.
The art of giving
Ang pow or red packets containing money are presented by married couples to their elders, as well as to children and single adults. The amount and denomination usually indicate good fortune, such as 8, 10, 20, 88 and 188. Even numbers are favoured except for 4, which is regarded as an unlucky number as it sounds similar to the Chinese word for death. Moreover, while e-ang pows are gaining popularity in the digital age, the common practice is to give cash, ideally banknotes which are crisp and new.
Lights and sounds
Lion and dragon dances typically herald the Lunar New Year in Malaysia. The dazzling performances add merriment to the festive season with skilfully choreographed dance moves, rousing music and costumes that are magnificent to behold. You may ask — Why lions and dragons? In Chinese culture, these majestic creatures are highly revered as they stand for dignity, wisdom and courage along with power, wealth and longevity, among others.
Furthermore, while the streets spring to life with traditional dances and parades, the nights glow with bright lanterns. The lanterns come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, symbolically illuminating the revellers’ life with plenty of luck, well-being and prosperity.
Animals of the zodiac
The Chinese zodiac comprises 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. According to the 12-year cycle of the zodiac, 2018 is represented by the dog and it’s believed that those born in the Year of the Dog display admirable qualities like loyalty and honesty. They are also viewed as smart, reliable and friendly.
Yellow Pages Malaysia app lets you welcome the Lunar New Year in style with its wealth of information and amazing features. Download it now on the App Store and Google Play Store.
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