My Disappearing Festive Traditions

The march of commercialism is slowly changing the traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. Food that used to be served only during festivals are now readily available long before the occasion or even throughout the year. When I was a kid, Mum would make kuih bahulu just before Chinese New Year together with kuih kapit and kuih bangkit. Walk into any major shopping complex on any given day now and one would be greeted by stalls selling kuih bahulu freshly baked from the oven with the unmistakeable saliva-inducing aroma.

Festivals have lost some of their glamour not only because delicacies associated with them are no longer exclusive. It is the lack of busyness, anticipation and preparations leading up to the festival. The air of festivity was already felt weeks prior to the day proper but not as much anymore now. The once-a-year rite of changing the curtains to the ones used exclusively for the Chinese New Year; the making of paper cuttings to paste on gifts to friends and relatives, mostly on cookie containers and mandarin oranges; the spring cleaning on a day selected to be auspicious for this activity with bamboo stalks fastened to a long bamboo pole; the overflowing of groceries in the larder, especially items like dried shiitake mushrooms, fish maw, canned mushrooms and baby corns; some of these have disappeared completely from my life.

On one part, I lament at the loss of anticipation and excitement for the impending festive season I had experienced as a kid. On the other, I am glad to be still able to experience some of these traditions with Wuan and her side of the family. It is a good thing that Wuan still maintains some of these practices like sprucing up the house with auspicious decorative items, making sure that we shop for clothes to wear on Chinese New Year and generally trying to infect me with the excitement as the day draws nearer. For the past couple of years since we got married, I have been celebrating the the Chinese New Year, especially the “tuen nin fun” (reunion dinner) and “hoi nin fun” (new year lunch), in her hometown with her family. I am glad for these little blessings that still exist in my life. They are all I have left and I am going to savour these moments for as long as I can.