Happy Year of the Rooster

roosterCHINESE New Year is the most loathsome festive season, where everything is over-the-top from food to decorations and even wishes. Decorations are, for the most part, loud and kitsch. The fake firecrackers dangling by the door, the hanging paper pineapples, all prosperously plump, and the cheesy smiling boy-and-girl twins with their hands clasped together in a gongxi gongxi, we-wish-you-good-fortune-and-good-luck stance. Even the wishes are dripping with hyperboles: huangjin mandi (may the ground be filled with ingots of gold) and madao chenggong (may success arrive like a horse).

Ever wondered why almost all of the wishes are always about fortune and wealth? No one greets gongxi facai over the Gregorian New Year—that ubiquitous wish for fortune to flood your gates. For those who want to sound a little more original, there are more elegant variations: zhaocai jinbao (invite wealth into your home and stuff it with treasures) and jinian xing dayun (may the year of the rooster run with big luck).

I suppose with the long festive season—this year, there were four straight days, two for the lunar new year and two over the weekend—the gamblers were out in full force. The mahjong tiles were swishing and crackling, the cards were fanned out with the hope that there would be no shit cards on the draw.

No, we don’t sing to the Western tune of Luck be the Lady Tonight; ours is an ode to cai shen ye, the God of Fortune, who’s like Santa, except his beard is black and his cap is an oriental one with the fly-swatter-like feelers popping out of the sides. I’m not sure our potbellied God was on my side though because I had won only a handful of games in the many rounds of Big 2 I had played with my raucous cousins, two of whom happen to be only 10 and six, geniuses already at shuffling and dealing.

Thank goodness my cousins are quite fun company, not as insufferable as their parents. Aunt X, particularly, has a nosey streak. She could build intricate questions around a theme. Let’s say, tuition, for instance. There’s a 5W1H aspect about it. Where do you go for tuition? But why do you need tuition? What time one hah? How you go there one? Bus? Train? It’s enough to make me roll my eyes and to hate her forever. And this is the same aunt who has poked her nose into every single wardrobe of the newly renovated home of her nephew, my cousin.

Good thing there are other wonderful things to cancel out such horrors and the tedium of house-visits, and the fatigue of wearing fake smiles—smiles that get even more tired from the photoshoots. Aunt X takes a shot, then Aunt Y, lifting her glasses with a squint, insists on a re-take (“This one eyes closed, and this one the face is blocked”), and after the shot gets approved, Uncle T wants another one (“Look here, look here, look at my phone! One more time!”)

’Tis the season of laden tables and glorious feasts. Ah, my favorite pig’s trotter swimming amid other delicious innards—big intestines, small ones, powdered ones, and even liver. Thumbs down to all my loser cousins who just go Ew! to such delicacies. Lucky me when they chicken out. I get to eat more. Luckier me too when they sneer at the braised chicken feet. I get to load up on more collagen. And for this year of the chicken, more correctly rooster, or cock, if you want to sound dirty, I hope it is filled with all the hyperboles imaginable, from good fortune, to good health, good grades, success, and hopefully sufficient sleep.

(631 words)

***
Lim Zhi Yi, Secondary Four
January 2017

For more essays by Zhi Yi, visit Zhi Yi Writes.


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