Dried meat is sold and enjoyed throughout the year but during the Chinese New Year, the sale of this delicious delicacy increases a hundredfold.
Put away your calorie counter and cholesterol charts, the thinly sliced meat that is marinated in sugar, superior soy sauce and other secret ingredients, then grilled on an open fire will blow your socks away!
Giving out hampers to relatives, friends and particularly to business associates is popular among Malaysians. Priced at attractive and auspicious sounding prices of RM68, 88, 118, and so on, they are typically filled with canned fruits, canned shellfish, dried mushrooms, a bottle of wine or orange cordial, chocolates and nuts.
They may be purchased at supermarkets and brought along with you when you visit your friend. Alternatively, you may have them delivered to your business associates, with a suitable note of appreciation attached. As hampers are a wide-spread custom, it is not viewed as a bribe, unless the contents are unusually expensive.
The picture shows an array of hampers for sale before Chinese New Year.
The pineapple is a popular fruit during the Chinese New Year. It's auspicious sounding name Ong Lai (in Hokkien) is phonetically the same as the phrase "Luck Comes" to herald in a prosperous new year.
The picture (click to enlarge) shows three varieties of pineapple, in the middle is the regular pineapple which can be eaten, and on either end are the smaller variety that has tinges of purple and is placed at the altar to beautify the offerings on the altar. As far as I know, this last two varieties are never eaten and is uses to prayers and decoration only.
The custom of receiving ang pows (red packets filled with money) is a bit like gift-giving during Christmas, but without the headache of what gift to choose for whom! Instead, the amount of money will depend on the giver's income level and how close the giver is to the person receiving. The highest amounts are usually given to one's own children (RM50-100), while visiting neighbourhood children may receive a token sum (RM2-5).
Unmarried adults continue to receive ang pows from their parents and may sometimes be asked by well-meaning or nosy relatives "When are you going to get married?" Those who are married but who don't have any kids will be subjected to the question "when are you planning to start a family?" or words to that effect...
Some typical tid-bits at New Year would include Ground Nuts (those imported from Shandong or Ipoh Ngan Yin Brand are favourites), slices of grilled meat,* mandarin oranges, Nien Kou*** and canned soft drinks.
**details of where to buy are featured in my shopping tips
*** sticky glutinous rice cakes that are brown in colour and always offered to the God of Heaven
The lime tree is a must for those welcoming the Chinese New Year. It is also known as Kam kat (in the Cantonese dialect) or Kek La (in the Hokkien dialect) and signifies prosperity and good luck.
The colour of the ripe fruit, Kam or gold is beieved to bring longevity and success, while Kat is phonetically the same as the word that means "fortunate" and "auspicious".
Each tree costs between RM30-68 and vendors do brisk sales about 1 week before Chinese New Year.
Next to the lime trees you can also see chrysanthemum plants which are often purchased to brighten up the house for the New Year while the flowers are often placed at altars.
Cookies which used to be made at home are now mass-produced because many Chinese women now hold jobs and work outside of their homes so they simply have no time to make any cookies.
The Chinese love the pomelos - not only for their taste, but also for their full, juicy and round shape and size. The roundness of the fruit signifies a complete family and the juicy fruits with their firm light green skin are usually placed on the altar for prayers prior to consumption.
Chinese New Year wouldn't be complete without a taste of some fine home cooking. There are a number of good cooks in my husband's family and my sister in law cooked some fish maw, with chicken & chinese musrooms. The broth was light and clear and not too oily.
I have to tell you folks that it was totally delicious!
As mentioned in a previous tip, the kam kat (golden lime) tree takes on special significance during the Chinese New Year. The word "Kam" is similar in sound to the word that means GOLD.
As Chinese believe that prosperity and wealth is important, businessmen normally display several kam kat trees outside their houses and in front of their shops to symbolically (and for fung-shui reasons) usher in wealth and prosperity for the coming year.
The one pictured was placed in front of a restaurant and yes, business was brisk that night! :)
For the Taoists special prayers are done at the start of each Chinese New Year. The temple is consulted for the auspicious time to offer prayers to the God of Heaven and this year, the auspicious time was at around 1.00 am so my daughter stayed up to help her grand-mother.
A table full of offerings are placed outside the house (see pics) and incense & jossticks are burnt, and prayers said. Some households also light red fire-crackers for good luck.
Fresh flowers for the altar are a must at Chinese New Year. Bright yellow Chrysantemums, violet orchids and multi-coloured daisies were the choice of my mum-in-law who bought them from the market. They don't cost very much, but do certainly make the altar bright and cheerful. If you cut the stalk and change the water every day, the flowers could last for up to a week.
When visiting Johor, take note of following additional holidays.
1 February 2007 Thursday
(Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Penang, Selangor only)
8 April 2007 Sunday
Birthday of Sultan of Johor
21 July 2007 Friday
Holy Day of Almarhum Sultan of Johor
13 September 2007 Thursday
(Johor, Kedah, Malacca only)
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