By Anthony Dylan

The last Chinese New Year in 2020 ushered in the first animal in the Chinese New Year sequence; the Rat.  On the 12th of February this year, we would usher in the Year of the Ox. At this time of writing, I am pretty sure that many of you would be anxious of whether this Chinese New Year would be different especially when the whole country is finding ways to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have to prepare ourselves that this Chinese New Year would certainly be one of the many festivals to come to be muted. I would surely miss the drive to Kuantan for this Chinese New Year as much as I have missed going home to Kuching for Christmas last December. I can only look at the past pictures and remember how it was before.

Many of us who have to go back to the office during MCO 2.0 would see no one but our own selves or maybe with another person around. The empty desks bear testimony to how work from home has removed the soul in most offices. Lunch and dinner breaks for many would be in solitude. The sounds of chatter have been relegated to a distant memory. Many have also decided to decorate their offices and play music whilst working. It helps with keeping sane.

The annual return for Chinese New Year drive to the east would have always been in the early morning with a sure stop at one of the kopitiams in Kuantan for that bowl of tasty curry mee. The anticipation of the eve would see one driving around town getting goodies and packing ang pows. The culinary spread for the eve would be sorely missed not just for food solely but for the whole ambiance and feeling of getting together. I would surely miss those dishes of siew yuk and vinegar; the steamed prawns and fresh fish; the poached chicken, the braised pork sandwiched between yam slices and the five spiced pak lo ark (duck). The eve would still have their spread but made to fit smaller family units.

It is going to be one really weird Chinese New Year this year. There are no Lion Dances to be seen performing live. Neither would there be any lighting of fire crackers at the stroke of midnight. This would be really unthinkable before. At least for now; traditional music and even famous old Chinese New Year songs can still be heard playing in the background of most shops and shopping centres.

The many kopitiams have also tried to liven up in the emptiness it stands in when dine-ins were not allowed. Red lanterns are seen hung within the store. As you go around your typical neighbourhood supermarkets, wet markets and even those in shopping centres; you would still find effort in making the most of the upcoming festival celebration. Nearly all shopping centres within Klang Valley have already put up their Chinese New Year decorations. The red themes and some with added gold seem to stand stoically against the general tide of the fatigued feelings.  The drastic difference is the inability to buy new clothes in shopping centres as fashion stores are not allowed to be open. This is not a deterrent to many who went online instead. Somehow, such efforts seem to cheer you on and give you hope of going on though without the end in sight.

The main focal point of any festivity is the togetherness of family. This is more so for the Chinese New Year where the Reunion Luncheon or Dinner becomes the highlight of the celebration. The elders would be alone this time. Children would be unable to meet their cousins and grand parents. Friends would no longer be able to do the one in a year gathering. The sounds of ‘Lou Sang’ would be quiet. Perhaps there would be a window within the 14 days of Chinese New Year for this to happen. Perhaps without being there, a timely call would suffice. But I am not putting my bets up.

This environment we are in today provides us with the opportunity to think of ways to replace what cannot be done. Yes, there are SOPs to be followed and the guidelines provide the framework in which one can work with. Being resourceful and innovative would certainly be key in the next few years. This is no longer a short term issue but one which would change us forever. We have to quickly discipline ourselves to be able to celebrate. This is now a known fact and the ultimate goal for all of us.

The only way we can ensure we have our Hari Raya, our Deepavali, Our Pesta Kaamatan, our Gawai Dayak and our Christmas like before is to do this together. We have to be disciplined and we must speak out against those who do not, even if they are in government.  We should no longer be silent when some prefer to seek popularity without heeding the same laws as if above them.

We can always overcome adversity. We would just have to put our minds into it. Be like the Ox who moves forward against any challenges that may come. Being resilient and stubborn moves everything in time.  As we usher in the Chinese New Year of the Ox in 2021, let us all work together to quickly flatten the curve and bring it down swiftly. It is time to take a different look at what life means to each of us. Do stay safe and best wishes.

God Bless and Gong Xi Fa Cai! Xin Nian Kuai Le! Wan Shi Ru Yi!