Category Archives: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Today saw the start of the Chinese New Year. It is on days like these that you clearly see how many Thai people have Chinese ancestors. A lot. Just walk around the market area of Paknam and you will see many of the smaller shops closed for the holiday. It is fair to say Chinese people are very hard workers and this is the only time you will see the shutters of these shops closed during the day. For many people in Thailand, this weekend was dominated with the sound of firecrackers. These are extremely loud and are supposed to scare off evil spirits. I would think they did a  pretty good job.

I took these pictures this morning at a Chinese shrine in Suphan Buri (a couple of hours north of Bangkok). The place was packed. There must have been a thousand people. Judging by the number plates of cars in the car park, this must be a pretty important shrine as some people had travelled far to get here. We weren’t the only ones with Bangkok number plates. I didn’t get a chance to enter the building itself as there were so many people in the forecourt shrine. The air was chokingly thick with incense smoke. Not altogether unpleasant. People lit their big bunch of incense and then walked to the shrine with the sticks held up high. The tables in front of the shrine was jam packed with a feast fit for a king – or in this case, for gods and dead ancestors.


In The Nation newspaper this morning they had a few do’s and don’t for the Chinese New Year. I want to share a few with you:

  • Wear new clothes, preferably red.
  • Give red envelopes containing money to children.
  • Keep your rice bucket fall as it symbolises abundance in the coming year
  • Don’t wash your hair or sweep the floor as you might sweep/wash away your good luck.
  • Don’t use or carry sharp object as these will pierce any good fortune coming your way.
  • Don’t talk loudly, speak badly, say the number four  or mention death.
  • Don’t drop your chopsticks or break things.
  • Don’t borrow or lend money

A happy new year to everyone. See you at the next new year celebrations which is coming very soon!

Celebrating Chinese New Year I

Being of Penang-Phuket Peranakan Chinese ancestry, Chinese New Year (CNY) or Trut Jeen is my family most significant celebration of the year.

Besides the firecrackers, the ‘ang pows’ (red packets), and the ‘sinfully’ rich food, it is also a time of prayers, merit-making, and more importantly the coming-together of the large extended family.

It all begins with the ritual cleaning of the house with lime and lemon leaves. This can start as early as one month before CNY. Rituals aside, it is not easy task — house-painting, cleaning all the windows, scrubbing the floors etc etc.

Symbolically, the most important item to be cleaned is the Buddhist Altar. At my house, on an auspicious day and time, I would usually do the ‘bathing’ of the Phra Puthachao, Chao Meh Kuam Imm and Chenrezig images. This is followed by the tablets of the San Phra Bum Jeen (Teh Chiu Ee Earth God) and the Kitchen God. After all the ritual cleaning and polishing, it is time to re-decorate the altar with ornaments such as red couplets stickers, peacock feathers and host of other offerings.

Usually, one week before CNY, my family would usually make merit (tamboon) at a local Thai Buddhist Temple by offering cash, rice, oil and daily necessities to the Buddhist monks. For a Thai-Chinese family, making merit for CNY accrues among the highest merits. Perhaps, this is the only Buddhist aspect of CNY, the rest being traditionally Peranakan and Chinese.

Later at night on the same day, there would be a special offering of barbeque pork, fruits, nien guo (sticky rice cake), chocolates (Kit-Kat, Toberone and Mars), biscuits, and sugar cane to the Kitchen God. This is a very ancient Peranakan practice and many families have discarded this ritual, but my family still practices this earnestly.

Accordingly, it is believed on the 24th night of the 12th Lunar Month, the Kitchen God ascends to Heaven to report the domestic happenings. This is the time for my family to ‘bribe’ the Kitchen God with sweet sticky stuff (thus the sweet chocolates) for him to report only ‘good stuff’ about the family. Of course, this is also a symbolic prayer for enough food on our dining table for the coming year.

On the morning of CNY’s Eve, just before putting up the ‘chaiki’ (a kind of red cloth) at the main entrance of the house, there is another prayer to honour our ancestor with the ‘Sembahyang Abu.’ (Ash Prayer).

Traditionally, the expensive blue-and-white Peranakan ware would be taken out to offer our ancestors with a most sumptuous feast of pork, duck, chicken, fish and mushroom dishes. But being staunch Buddhist, we only offer vegetarian dishes these days. As we don’t have an ancestral tablet, this ‘Sembahyang Angin’ (Wind Prayer) takes place in front of the main entrance.

On the night of CNY’s eve, my extended family would have our reunion dinner. This is usually celebrated at my grand-parents house with traditional Peranakan Chinese dishes on the tok panjang (dining table) such as ‘kiam chye ap’ (salted vegetable duck soup), ‘pongteh’ (marinated pork knuckles), gulai ayam (chicken curry) and ‘acar chilli’ (preserved and stuff chilli with dried shredded papaya).

However since their passing, my extended family would have our reunion dinner at a hotel restaurant in the city. Bedecked in all our richly- red clothes, it is the time for the family to have the traditional family meal and the ‘loh sang’ (Throw Prosperity). The expensive food and the small talk aside, this gathering is a time for well-wishing for a better year, for better business deals, for job promotions, and for a healthy and prosperous year ahead.

After dinner, the extended family disperses. It is time to return home with only me and my parents. At 12.00am sharp, on the first start of the Chinese New Year, my father would perform the ‘Sembahyang Sambut Kepala Tahon’ (welcome the start of the year) Prayer.

He will ritually offer a golden joss-stick, switch on all the lights at home, open all the doors and windows, and call for Phra Puttachao to symbolically bless our home and the family. Then, there will be three ritual callings of ‘Huat Chye,’ or ‘Tuah -Berkat Mari’ (Come’ye Prosperity) in Peranakan.

On CNY’s morning, after a vegetarian breakfast, we usually start our day with more family prayers. With a ritual lime and flower bath, my family will wear our newest and brightest clothes and make our first visit of the year to the Thai Buddhist Temple. There, it is time for more prayers and blessing from the Phra Putthachao and his Thai Buddhist Monks.

Only after these Buddhist Prayers, in true Malaysian style, we will visit my family’s relatives’ open houses for the pai nien (CNY visits). Traditionally, the women-folk of the older generation, would wear their traditional sarong-kebaya, (a see-through tight traditional blouse) festooned with their huge diamond kerongsang (a three-piece button set) and diamond earrings. Sometimes, I find all these a little too flashy for an octogenarian or a nanogenarian, right?

On the second day of CNY, it is my family’s traditional open house. Thankfully we have a good Malay caterer serving non-Chinese food such as roti jala (a type of Malay deep-fried bread), curry chicken and mee siam (Thai vermicelli). I don’t see how I can cope with more than 150 guests of my father’s relatives, business clients and friends. Also thanks to paper cups, plates and plastic forks and spoons, there is no washing to be done.

Even after the second day, there are still so many CNY rituals like receiving the arrival of the Kitchen God, the prayers to the Jade Emperor and the final Chap Goh Meh. Interestingly, Chap Goh Meh is also the Buddhist Magha Bucha Day which commemorates the spontaneous gathering of the Buddha’s disciples.

(PS – To my non-Malaysian readers, I would emphasize that my family’s CNY rituals and practices are a syncretic reflection of my Chinese, Peranakan and Thai ancestry, I doubt many other Chinese families follow the same rituals.)

Gong Si Fa Cai

Happy New Year everybody. I wish everybody the best wishes and hope this year will be great for everyone across the world. I know a lot of things haven’t been in good graces lately but hopefully, from this day, it’ll be a fresh start towards a bright future.

This is Chinatown in London. Very different to our Chinatown in Bangkok.

According to Richard’s pictures, it is what we perform every year to celebrate the chinese new year. In China, it is a very important day as people will get holidays for at least 3 days and will be celebrating the festival for about 7 days. It is a festival to remember ancestors, relations, friends and loved ones. Most people would spend their New year’s eve (Tuesday) eating together. The most important dish that every house must have is dumpling. Just like in western world where you’ll have to cook turkey for Christmas. New year for Chinese families, we have dumplings. It a food dish that symbolises good graces. Also, after dinner, most people would go out and watch/light fireworks in order to kick start this faithful festival. It is also known that nobody should sleep before midnight last night. This is a bad sign as you’re sleeping across the year. You should only sleep when new year has already begun. Very interesting, yeah?

THe past couple of days have been very tiring for me. Most of my classes have begun. Last week, only the lectures started. This week, the tutorial kick started as well. From now on, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have to start classes from 9am to 7.30pm. It is worse than studying in Thailand. In Thailand, University students usually go to school everyday but sometimes, they have the evening off or the morning off. Here, I don’t have school on Mondays and the rest of the week is packed!

I’m taking 8 subjects this semester when if in Thailand, I would take no more than 7 a semester. Also here, we have a lecture and a tutorial for every subject except for one of my subjects which has 2 tutorials and 2 hours lecture. In Thailand, there are 2 classes each week for every subject. In addition, credits involved in each subjects are less there than here. Maximum credit for a subject in Thailand is 12 but here, I have a subject that’s worth 30 credits! So, I cannot fail this subject. However, in Thailand, everybody goes to summer school. Here, only the people who fail go to summer school. So, I must study hard in order for me to spend my summer holiday back in Thailand (playing golf…hahaha).

Anyway, today is very tiring as well as I just got back from watching England played Holland and both teams didn’t perform well. I was very disappointed. So, I must hit the bed now. Bubbyee…..


Vocabs for Chinese New Year

Chun Tian Kuai Le = happy new year (spring festival)
Xin Nian Kuai Le = happy new year
Gong Hei Fa Choi = happy new year (cantonese)
Sin Ni Huad Cai = happy new year (Fujianese)

Chinese New Year

Tomorrow marks the start of a new year for Chinese people. It is the year of the Rooster. Today, it is still New Year’s Eve. Firecrackers have been going off all day and local shopkeepers have been setting fire to paper money in front of their shops. At school, the school administrators made an offering of a large banquet to their dead ancestors.

The offerings included steamed duck, chicken, pork, fruit, Chinese cake and vegetarian food such as dried mushrooms, bean cakes and edible Chinese flowers.

Gold, banknotes, clothes, all made of paper, were also offered to the ancestors. Towards the close of the ceremony, all of the paper offerings were burnt. Then the firecrackers were lit. Trust me, you don’t want to stand by these guys when they go off. They are LOUD!

I am going to go out now to eat at Paknam market. Then I am going to pay a visit to the Chinese Street Opera near the City Pillar. If I get some good pictures I will share them with you tomorrow.

The sound of firecrackers

I woke up this morning to the sound of firecrackers. Very loud firecrackers. Dreary eyed I struggled out of bed and peeped through my blinds. The people next door were crouching down in front of their car with a tray of food and some incense sticks. They seemed to be making an offering to their car as if it was some kind of deity. I was going to take a picture to show you but I decided to go back to bed instead. Half an hour later my alarm clock went off and it was time to get ready for school.

Today is New Year’s Eve for the Chinese people. As many Thai people in this area have Chinese ancestors there is a lot going on here at the moment. I have already mentioned the firecrackers and also the tables outside houses with offerings of food upon them. Walking to school, I also passed several shophouses where people were burning paper money and paper clothes. They are doing this for the benefit of their dead ancestors.

There are three different kinds of prayers that must be chanted today. These are prayers for the Gods of the Land in the morning, prayers for the ancestors at noon and prayers for the wandering souls with no relatives in the afternoon. Chinese people believe that these prayers will bring them merit and good luck. After each prayer, they burn golden paper, believing that the paper will become money in the after life.

At school, about 10% of my students were absent today. I think even more will be absent tomorrow. On New Year’s Day, it is traditional for people to go to their relatives’ houses to give and receive blessings. Children are given red envelopes with money inside so for sure the students don’t want to miss that!

There will be a ceremony for dead ancestors at the school this afternoon. I will take some pictures to show you later. I will also try and take some pictures of the Chinese street opera near the City Pillar as that is a treat for the senses.