This was the last time I celebrated Chinese New Year (CNY) with my family (excluding my sister who was still in the states- the last time we celebrated it with all four of us must have been in 2006, before she left for college).
Now my sister lives the good life after moving back to Singapore. Every year she tortures me with pictures of the scrumptious nian ye fan (年夜饭- NYE feast) that my grandma and aunts cook.
It’s not just the food that I miss. I miss the company. I miss being around my grandma, watching my baby cousins grow up, catching up with the older cousins, listening to my aunts speak Bangka, and filling in my uncles about my life abroad. I miss gathering around a table on New Year’s eve, with 10 pairs of chopsticks ready to lo hei (捞起- prosperity toss) and yelling out Chinese idioms. 2010 was the first CNY I spent in Singapore (that I remember). On da nian chu yi (大年初一 – first day of the lunar year), we kowtow (磕头) to our parents and grandparents, wishing them a happy new year and to live a long and healthy life. Donning our new clothes, my immediate cousins and I (along with our parents and grandma) pile into two cars; we go to bai nian (拜年- wish a Happy New Year) our elder relatives in Singapore.
Two, three days before Chinese New Year, I skip down the spiral stairs of our house in Shanghai. Before I reach the study room, the smell of black woody Chinese ink slowly drift up my nose; my dad is practicing Chinese calligraphy on newspapers. Every Chinese New Year, he will write dui lian (对联- a couplet in Chinese), which are phrases that he hopes will happen during this year. The characters are carefully handpicked by my dad that sometimes, I don’t even know what they mean. These will stick onto either side of the main door at our house. I have lived with this tradition ever since I was born; my dad is a beast at Chinese calligraphy and, well, everything in general.
But the last time my sister, my parents and I were together for Chinese New Year? Let alone a Christmas or birthday? That was probably in 2008, when we went to Langkawi for Christmas for our last family trip before I graduated high school. I think I’ve dealt with the separation, but every time a holiday or birthday comes around where you’re supposed to be with your family, I can’t help but miss mine and wonder when the next time will be when we are all together.