The 15 days of Chinese New Year Vs The 12 Days of Christmas!

nyonyarecipe, Malaysian, Penang, Peranakan, food,


The Chinese celebrates the lunar new year for 15 days. There are 12 days of Christmas, so this concept is not too strange to understand. However, I am not sure if the 12 days are of real significance, or, it is just a song. Can you please enlighten me, if you know the answer?

Chinese New Year (CNY) tradition starts on the eve. The eve of CNY is significant as it is a time of family reunion. Why do we have the Reunion dinner? To me the reunion dinner is a time where all the family members come together, at least once a year in the elders house ( like your parents) to celebrate the new year. This is even more significant as people now live far away from their parents or family.

As my parents have passed on, we meet at one of my brothers’ house. So we prepare the reunion dinner at home. Well, it takes us a few days of preparation in order to get things done on the day.

We have our reunion lunch in instead of dinner. While my parents were alive and we had a few businesses. My parents, uncles and workers would work till very late as there were many customers wanting their cars to be in tip-top condition . We also had to do a lot of last-minute deliveries. Lunch was the main meal before CNY as my family was always busy and we tend to finish the lunch, clean up the house and settle down in the evening.

Now, as usual, there are a lot of food. Offerings are made the gods/deities and also to our late parents, and grand parents. Then we have our lunch. As explained earlier, we do most of our cooking for lunch and dinner will not be so busy, and there will not be much cooking from scratch.  We cook a lot of food so that we do not have to cook and toil over the 1st day of Chinese New Year. This signifies an easy year ahead. On a similar vein, we are not to do any work during the first few days of CNY. So we do not sweep the flour, lest we sweep out the good luck that arrived on the first day of CNY. We do not wash clothes as well. We used to practice this for 3 days, but now we make some compromise. For example, if the floor is messy, we will sweep the dirt and place it in the bin. To keep with tradition, we will not empty the bin until after the 3rd day!! Ha-ha-ha!!! That is being practical and ingenious.


Chinese New Year Eve, offerings, ancestors,

CNY eve: Offering to the ancestors and deities.

The spread includes (top from clock wise): duck & preserved mustard soup, steamed fish, poached chicken and roast pork, Thai fish cakes, prawn & squid curry, stir fried broccoli, fried Nyonya mixed vegetables, (below it) Lor Bak, and chicken curry.

Then there are more at the side: fried jicama with shredded cuttle fish, fried noodles, and steamed dumplings.


Squid and prawn curry. Big prawns and squids in a flavoursome curry. Garnish with ginger flower.

In the evening, we settle down to chit-chat and also to sort out the ‘Ang Paus’ or red packets

It is a tradition to give red packets or Ang Pau ( hung bao) to children during CNY. It is traditionally given out to family members on the eve. I need to clarify the definition of children. Those who are children and adults who are not married are considered as children. So a married man or woman has to give Ang Pau to adults! Beware.

The first day of CNY

The first day of Chinese New year is a time where we traditionally visit our elders. Family members get together and give the nieces, nephews, and children of families and friends Ang Paus. Our tradition is to visit our brothers and sisters and have a great time chit-chatting and catching up. As there is a lot of time on hand, some will play cards or gamble.

We usually gamble for fun. From young, we were allowed to partake in gambling for 3 days only, or, from the first day of CNY to the third. My father was really strict in this. Anyway most Chinese businesses close for 3 days and start on the 4th day. It is also a discipline, as sometime, we see people get addicted to gambling over the CNY holidays and continue to gamble resulting in bad consequences.

This time we congregate at my elder sister’s house. Later we went to a halal seafood restaurant for dinner as my niece and her family are Muslims. Just as well, most of the Chinese restaurants are close for the festival. The restaurant was by the sea.

Halal, restaurant, seafood, Penang, Chinese New Year.

Halal restaurant:Hammer Bay Corner.

We had quite a big spread. We had fish (2 types), prawns, Tom yum seafood, squid, vegetables, and lots more. The food was reasonably tasty.

Halal seafood, Penang, Chinese New Year,

Sea food galore… Centre of pic is crispy fried squids; (from clockwise) top right: grilled sting-ray with sambal; big prawns with tamarind; sweet and sour fish with the sauce; seafood curry.

When we wanted to pay for the food, the restaurant couldn’t find the bill!!. So we had to wait quite a long time to settle the bill.

2nd day of CNY

Traditionally, daughters-in-law visit her own parents on this day. In the olden days, when a woman is married, she is considered to be part of the husband’s family and can only visit her parents once a year on this day. Of course, this is not practical now in view that women now are career women and can practically visit her parents as and when she wants.

I have no in-laws to visit, I decided to tag along with my sister to visit her ‘diving’ friends. We went to the dive master’s house and met up with her fellow divers. My sister goes to these exotic dive trips in Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, the Philippines, Maldives, etc. So, today is a day for them to get together.

There were a number of them. Some of them are not married, and  I am obliged to give those overgrown kids and Ang Paus.


Chinese New Year, Penang , Hung bou.

All waiting anticipatingly for their gifts. Whoa.. big lads and lassies!!


Chinese New Year, Penang, red packets,

Overgrown kids overjoyed with their Ang Paus.

There was a simple spread of mee siam ( a vermicelli sort of salad).

Nyonya, Penang,

Mee Siam with crispy fried chicken and garnishes. Delicious!

The mee siam was prepared by a Malay lady vendor. There were also the typical snacks like groundnuts ( must be of a special type, new year snacks like kueh kapit, kueh bangkit, cakes, and of course the mandarin oranges. We usually take mandarin oranges with us as gifts when we visit as it signifies gold.

Chinese New Year, Penang, snacks.

Groundnuts and mandarin oranges signifying good fortune.

On that day, I was introduced to celebrity chef Nurilkarim Razha. Since I am not in Malaysia for a long time, it was a nice surprise. He is the owner of Jawi House Cafe Gallery, a restaurant and an art gallery.

Penang, Nyonya, clebrity chef,

Me with celebrity chef Nurilkarim Razha.


Penang, Nyonya,

More snacks. Kueh Kapit, a traditional Nyonya Chinese New Year snack. (from top right) traditional Chinese tea pots and cups; beer in a cup; drinks including brandy, gin, single malt whisky, etc.

Of course, with all the jolly people around, there was much jokes, laughter and merriment. Since it is CNY, the Chinese will not let the celebration to without a bang.

So here we have the obligatory fire crackers!!!

Chinese New Year, Penang, fire crackers,

Preparing the fire crackers. Try not to burn his butt!



On the whole, it was a day well spent.

I hope you like this post. Please like and share or give the thumbs up.

Cheers and I will continue with my tales of travel.

Penang Lassie.


Click here for Jawi House Cafe Gallery

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