Spending Lunar New Year Away From Home

A yearly affair, adored by billions around the world, days, even weeks spent in the company of family and friends.

With the 2019 pandemic (god has it already been over a year?), I haven’t been home for over a year now. This year, I, like many others (hopefully) will not partake in the largest annual human migration, in efforts to curb the potential spread of that ceaselessly resilient virus. That also means that this would be the first Lunar New Year I would have to begrudgingly spend alone, thousands of miles away from my home country, away from family and friends.

As the year of the Ox approaches, I find myself stubbornly and desperately holding on the ideals and traditions that I grew up with, but failing to execute.

Perhaps it’s knowing that the loom and doom of the pandemic still weighs heavily over us, or the fact that I would be spending it miles away from my home country, my family and friends, or plainly because I have absolutely no idea how to prepare for Lunar New Year traditions that I grew up with.

Lunar New Year decorations plastered across streets (pre pandemic times)

I suspect my privileged adult life has a large part to play in my ignorance. Mother and Father were always the ones tasked with the ritualistic shopping, making their rounds — to Chinatown, wet markets, grocery stores, wholesale markets — weeks before the auspicious season.

Meanwhile, I had rituals of my own, spending Lunar New Year eve afternoons enjoying a leisurely swim at the local pool, patiently awaiting the collection of red packets, and getting out of the way of Mother and Father’s yearly bickering about the “proper” way to chop cabbage or slice meats, how much salt to add, which pot to use for the soup, which cutlery to bust out, which tablecloth looks more auspicious…Ironically, going against one of the Spring Festival’s taboos (arguing of course).

This year, however, I find myself (exactly a month before the new year) nostalgic for the quarrels I determined to avoid, for the last minute errand-running duties, the abhorred spring cleaning, even the Lunar New Year themed coke cans on sale at grocery stores (because coke red=luck).

Not a Coca-Cola sponsor, more of a Pepsi fan.

This year, even the often overlooked (by me) pop-up zodiac predictions booths littered across neighbourhoods are to be missed.

Chinatown (pre pandemic times, hence the lack of 1.5m social distancing)

While Mother and Father prepare for their own celebrations without their youngest child, I too, will embark on my own celebrations from the confines of my home away from home, perhaps even taking on the role of bickering with my partner about the best way to cook soup, what type of sauce to use for braised pork, how best to clean the bathroom, and where to place the mandarins. As far as I can tell, Uber Eats is the way to go.

Not Tristram Shandy.

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