OCBC Bank Ang Pow 2012

The OCBC Bank ang pow for this year comes in four designs. Each has a different motif that is significant to the Chinese New Year. There are Mandarin oranges, gold fishes, vase with flowers and a tea set. Gold stamped calligraphy in the front extends auspicious wishes to recipients of these red packets. The delightfully simple motifs exude a festive atmosphere reminiscent of an era when traditions were strong and the occasion was the biggest celebration of the year.

Red packet from OCBC 2012
OCBC ang pow for 2012 – Set 1.

Red packets from OCBC 2012
OCBC ang pow for 2012 – Set 2.

Red packets from OCBC 2012
OCBC ang pow for 2012 – Set 3.

Red packets from OCBC 2012
OCBC ang pow for 2012 – Set 4.

Lamentations Of The Impending Chinese New Year

The dreaded Chinese New Year is fast approaching; dreaded not because I fear the festival itself but what accompanies it – crazy traffic jams in the expressways, packed shopping malls and hawkers taking long breaks. Still, we put ourselves through this just to be close to loved ones living far away on this auspicious occasion.

There was one year we were crawling in the North-South Expressway for five hours from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh on a journey that usually took only two hours. What made it worse was that most of the rest stops along the expressway were chock-full of travellers and two very annoyed cats confined in their carriers with us in the car. Good thing they had the sense to hold their bladders until we reached Ipoh.

Many hawkers also like to close their businesses for up to a week during the Chinese New Year holidays. Looking for food during this time is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Finding one does not signify luck of the new year. Hawkers opened during this festive season have no qualms in adding a RM1 surcharge to each single serving. The justification is that they have to work on such an important occasion. They are cutthroats notheless.

Complaints aside, I look forward to the Chinese New Year for the opportunity to be among the warmth of family, share meals together and the general air of festivity. Wuan has been sprucing up the house with festive decorations and made me buy new clothes and shoes to herald in the change of season. This makes the sense of anticipation even more. Most of all, the Chinese New Year was the happiest occasion when I was a child. I am hoping to recapture some of those memories and exhilaration of years long gone this year.

One More Week To The Spring Festival

Chinese New Year is only one week away. The excitement is building up, something that I have not felt in a while. This feeling is also partly due to the fact that the wheelchair has arrived but I am not able to use it yet. Some assembling and adjustments are needed first. I am really looking forward to getting on the new chair as the one I am using now creaks every time I shift my weight.

Nevertheless, the sight of new ang pau packets and the cookies that Wuan brought back, and the thought of being able to savour hou si fatt choy and yee sang has certainly put me in a festive mood. In the midst of all these, I reminisce about the times when I was barely a teenager, excitedly anticipating the arrival of the annual celebration. The was always an unmistakeable crispness in the air as I counted down the days, one that put spring in my steps and happiness in my face.

A few weeks before the day, the larder would already be bursting with groceries for the big cookout for the reunion dinner and new year lunch. My favourites were the puffed cream-coloured pieces of fish maw, dried shiitake mushrooms and waxed goose liver sausages; rare commodities reserved for auspicious occasions during those times. Cans of button mushrooms, lychees and longans together with a crate or two of Anchor beer would line the larder top.

Welcoming the new year could also never be complete without the hustle and bustle of spring cleaning. That was then followed by curtains and cushion covers being replaced with fresh and brightly coloured ones. Greeting cards from relatives and friends and my father’s business associates and clients decorated the metal grille in the living room. The garden was spruced up. Unkempt hedges were trimmed. The final task after all that was putting up the “cai”, the red cloth hung above the main entrance, to signify the auspicious celebration.

Those were the best times of the entire year for me as a kid – new clothes, delicious food, lots and lots of ang paus, and not forgetting the hordes of relatives that came visiting, many I only got to meet during that time. Those excitement and anxiety that I felt then is what I am feeling now. I just cannot wait for the first day of the Chinese New Year to arrive.