Feb 2016 - Welcome to the year of the Fire Monkey

Rosemary Chin and Gloria Chang gave us awesome explanations of Chinese New Year (CNY) traditions this week. And, possibly because the audience comprised ENAKers, the emphasis was on delicious things to eat and drink. Read on and you will learn what and why.



On the first day, traditional Chinese families welcome the gods of heaven. Elders of the family are greeted with tea and the traditional CNY greeting:


Gong Xi Fa Cai


Every house has a tray of together-ness, which is octagonal or round and has six to eight sections. It contains candied fruits, nuts and vegetables (tong go) each of which is symbolic. 

There is candied coconut for unity, lotus root for marital harmony, lotus seeds for fertility, ginger and peanuts for longevity red melon seeds for happiness, water chestnuts and pineapple for success and achievements. In Malaysia the CNY local delicacies are love letter biscuits, pineapple tarts and rice flour cookies called kueh bang kit.

Did I mention lunch on day 1? Well, predictably, as the first day is hugely important, the meal is special, but it is only a foretaste of all that is to come over the next15 days.




Traditionally, married women only return home to visit their families on the 2ndday.


Many visit their friends taking with them CNY gifts and red money packets called ang pow for the children.


Special meals today may include: Chinese sausages, barbequed meat and preserved meat. Some people become vegetarian for the day. 


The 7th day is considered the Birthday of Mankind hence is regarded as Everyone's Birthday. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish salad yee sang or loh hei is popular in Malaysia for a good life and success.


Chinese Restaurants serve this salad daily until the 15th day of the CNY.


On the 9th day of the lunar calendar legend has it that the Hokkien people were saved from their enemy when they hid in a sugarcane plantation. They emerged safe on the Jade Emperor’s birthday, so sugarcane became a national favourite.


DAY 10

On the 10th day, the Hokkien Chinese in Malaysia has another family reunion dinner as thanksgiving. They offer prayers to Tien Koong, the God of Heaven


DAY 11 - 14

The last few days’ celebrations include visits to and from relatives, friends and business associates. Many continue the celebrations with lunches and dinners as businesses open again for the New Year.


DAY 15

Chap Goh Meh, Hokkien for the 15th night, signals the end of the CNY celebrations. To some, Chap Goh Meh is known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day because a long time ago it was the only day that young maidens could be seen publicly. They were allowed to stroll on the streets albeit accompanied by fierce chaperones. Eligible young men would hope to catch a sight of the rarely seen maidens.


Rosemary and Gloria ended their presentations wishing everyone a Happy Year of the Fire Monkey. As Gloria is married, she gave us all Lei See, good luck red packets as we wished her Gong Xi Fa Cai

But what happened to the lion dance you may be asking yourself? It is the only part of CNY that most people know (well me anyway). No, they did not forget the lions. There were two of them strutting their stuff in scarlet feathery costumes and flirting with eyes that moved long curled eyelashes up and down. Their accompanying group comprised three people clashing symbols, one drummer drumming rigorously and one young man booming on a gong. 


From 5th to 22nd February in KL there are traditional lion dances, acrobatic lion dances, pole lion dances and lion walkabouts in most of the shopping malls of KL. So in the event that you missed the MCG event at the Pearl you could catch some of the excitement – and lots of photos at a shopping centre near you.


Gong xi fa cai everyone

Submitted by

Judyth Gregory-Smith