Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Childhood memories of activities before Xin Nian

Today is the 15th day of the eleventh moon according to the lunar calendar. It means the Chinese will be ushering in Xin Nian or Chinese New Year in one and a half months' time. Right now, I can see people start selling angpaus (red packet containing money to be given to children who have not got married by parents and elders).

Spring cleaning is one of the activities before Xin Nian. It signifies the discarding of old and unwanted things to make way for new ones to come. I still remember how I helped my parents clear all the cobwebs below the attap roof of our old house. (When I was small, I lived in an attap house the roof of which was made of nipah leaves and spiders like to build their cobwebs beneath it.) We used bamboo leaves tied to the end of a long bamboo pole to do the job. Sometimes it was a tear-shedding experience when cobwebs fell onto my eyes. Blinking the eyes induced more tears to flow out from the eyes.

Then it was time for making cakes. I would be given the task of folding kuih kapit (a crispy thin slice of cake made of flour, eggs and coconut milk). It is very 'heaty' (which can make our temperatures go up and suffer fever-like condition and we need to drink cooling tea to keep the body temperatures down) and I dare not consume too many pieces of this Xin Nian delicacy. Another cake we made was the kuih bengkak (a starchy cake made of starch and eggs). The dough would be rolled to form a thin layer and I would be given the job of cutting with a metal mould in my hands. These cut-out pieces would then be baked in a earthen pot filled with sand on which a piece of paper was placed covered with a piece of metal on which glowing charcoals were placed. The heat from the top would reach the pieces of dough to bake them.

Now that I have shifted to the house I bought myself, I did not have to use bamboo leaves to clear away cobwebs which are not there anyway. We just dust or vacuum the ceiling. As for making Xin Nian cakes, we resort to buying them from the market where people are too willing to make them for sale because it is quite troublesome doing so.

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