This post is dedicated to my Singapore family and board members of the Singapore America Business Association and SingaporeConnect.
Growing up in Singapore, I spent many Chinese New Years basking in the carefree banter of a huge extended family, soaking in the vibrant festivities, collecting Ang Paos (red envelops with money!) and wolfing down bak kwa (jerky), pineapple tarts and candy.
We went from relative’s house to relative’s house in a convoy of cars – parents, uncles and aunts with screaming, gleeful kids in tow. I played and ate at every stop, not realizing those were precious familial moments I would come to miss as I moved to the United States years later.
Well, it’s been too many years since I spent Chinese New Year in Singapore. I have gotten used to simply celebrating as a little family, and have grudgingly accepted that this day is a regular work day this side of the Pacific Ocean.
But thankfully this year, my spirits lifted with a “shot of inspiration” from the Singapore America Business Association (SABA) and SingaporeConnect (SC). My husband and I signed up for a SABA-organized Chinese New Year dinner party. I dressed in a mandarin-collar outfit, sauntered into the Great Mall Mayflower Restaurant in Milpitas, and had a blast! Well, literally, lion dancers “blasted” into the restaurant as cymbals clashed and drums rolled. Some 300 people (including many kids) stood mesmerized by their agile jumps and kicks. Catching up with friends old and new, partaking in a delightful 10-course meal of lor hey (new year dish), pepper crabs, roasted chicken, steamed fish and more, plus getting charmed by karaoke entertainers, I was transported that evening to a “home away from home.”
There are so many of us living in the Bay Area, in the larger United States, who left pieces of ourselves behind when we left our home countries. How often have we thought back with nostalgia of the many festivities and family members who used to fill our days? Now in our adopted country, these feelings become stronger during Chinese New Year.
But for that evening, some 300 of us who were far away from home experienced a slice of home. Many amongst us didn’t have the chance to fly back for that reunion dinner, but we were able to eat, drink, laugh and ring in the Year of the Tiger with our “extended family” in a big and memorable way.
Special thanks to SABA and SC, especially Isabelle Lee and William Chang, for creating community home away from home.
Happy Chinese New Year everyone!