Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blast From My Past Pt4 - Old CNY memories

When I was young (and still today), the most precious experiences and times I had were during Chinese New Year.

I remember about a week before the big event, we would have prayers to the ancestors. It would always mark the coming of this highly anticipated festival. We would set out the altars and serve itik tim (duck soup with salted veg) and chap chye (nyonya mix veg) to the ancestors.

Of course, about a month prior, we would already start the spring cleaning of the house. I live in a century old house and it was definitely a task to clean it properly. Being 200ft long and 3 storeys high, the house took 3 days of floor washing. The antiques needed to be toothbrushed (only toothbrushes could easily reach into the wood carving grooves) and we had to use chopsticks and cloth to poke through the small wooder carving holes. The gold leaf on the old lacquered wood would shine again with just a wipe. They definitely knew how to make old wooden fittings and furniture back then. During spring cleaning, I normally had the task of polishing the brass candle stands with brasso. It was a hard task for sure and I had to carefully cut away old wax from the stands using a blunt knife. Then we had to paint white lines into the red stone of the dutch floor (renewing the old paint lines). We had to skip around these lines until the paint dried.

Anyway, as CNY approached, we would do our shopping for fruits, flowers, joss paper and joss sticks for prayers etc. I remember on CNY eve, there would be this small performance troupe that goes around our streets. This troupe consisted of a guy who would wear the bald man mask (the one that plays with the lion in lion dances) with a broken hand fan. Then the other guys in the troupe would be carrying a short dragon on sticks. They would go house to house to 'bless' the house and collect angpows.

I always looked forward to CNY eve... Melaka town would be so quiet and the market would be full of housewifes doing last minute pork and veg shopping. And we would go to bed with our new pyjamas in anticipation of the following day.

CNY itself would be a different affair. We would lay out the antique velvet tablecloth on the marble table and have a long joot carpet that spans from the front of the house to the middle to welcome visitors. Every 1st day of CNY morning, we would visit my mom's aunt's house and have ketupat (yeah funny right?) with sambal and curry and then visit my mom's mom's house in Serkam for lunch. As usual, we would kneel before our elders to wish them good luck and long life before receiving our angpows. RM20 worth of fireworks would last us a couple of hours... from moontravellers to black cat sparklers and even ciggie shaped sparklers.

The following days would be filled with leftover food from the CNY even family dinner, bakkua, kuaci, 500ml F&N drinks and games of 21/banlat (blackjack), fishing, gin rummy, TAN (5 card game) among other things...