Normally, during this time of the year, the air would be filled with auspicious cheer and a flurry of colour in preparation for the Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival. 

This year, things are much different.

Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash

In Malaysia, following updated SOPs for Chinese New Year celebrations this year, reunion dinners are limited to a maximum of 15 family members (even ones from different households) provided they live within 10km of each other. 

However, family members living in different districts and states will not be allowed to travel. 

Prayers are allowed to commence with a 30-person and 30-minute limit while adhering to social distancing and wearing of face masks. 

With the way things have panned out, celebrating the year of the Ox will look and feel different. Notably, we may feel more disconnected, lonely and isolated from the family members and friends we cannot meet due to travel restrictions. 

As a gentle reminder for us to recognize the light at the end of the tunnel despite challenging times, we’re suggesting a few ways to still celebrate Chinese New Year auspiciously and sustainably. 

(1) Shop local for gifts, festive cookies, special dishes, and decorations. 

If you are still purchasing cookies, gifts, cooking ingredients, special dishes and decorations in preparation for the Chinese New Year, be sure to think of the small business owners and sellers at your local markets. 

Wet markets, such as the oldest one in Petaling Jaya, are now frequented by much fewer people despite being a time when most would be rushing the streets in preparation for the Chinese New Year. 

The MCO has also somewhat dampened the mood for the festive season. Many families cannot travel and reunite, affecting the demands of fresh ingredients for traditional Chinese New Year dishes at the local markets. 

The economic conditions of the pandemic have exacerbated the livelihoods of communities across Malaysia, this is especially true for those struggling to make ends meet selling food and goods at markets. In the spirit of the Chinese New Year, it may be worthwhile to help in ways that we can – in this case, by supporting local.  

(2) Be mindful of your waste.

While celebrating the auspicious occasion, consider ways to reduce your carbon and waste footprint in aspects of preparations for the festive season. 

This can include reusing Chinese New Year decorations where necessary or investing in timeless and durable designs that can be used again, as well as sorting and recycling what you can after celebrations. 

Typically, this may include cookie jars (the ones with the red lids), cardboard boxes holding mandarin oranges, paper gift boxes, aluminium cans from drinks, and such. 

Check here for a recycling guide 

Fun fact: the Chinese New Year cookie jars are a common material for making Beyond Bins products! 

(3) Gifting to those in need

Chinese New Year is all about gifting to loved ones and friends through auspicious gifts, food, and practices to pass on good wishes and luck. The red envelope, or “hóngbāo”, is one of the most essential gifts during Chinese New Year.

However, with the onset of the pandemic and its impacts on the people, it may be worth considering alternative ways of passing on good wishes – gifting to those in need.

Here are a few ways to help make a difference during this festive season.

Help give out free phones to students from B40 families

YTL Foundation is providing free mobile phones with a prepaid YES 4G SIM card and a 12-month data plan with 120GB of Internet data in total to families in the B40 communities who do not have smartphones and access to other devices. 

Digital connectivity is essential for students to continue learning from home. 

If you know of students who cannot proceed with their learning at home due to a lack of access to digital devices and internet, nominate them here. You will need to obtain consent from the parents of the student to be nominated and provide personal information about the student.

For further information on the process, please click here. 

Donate to help stray cats and dogs with Bulu-Bulu Initiative 

Bulu-Bulu Initiative is an initiative by Petotum to feed the hungry strays during the Movement Control Order (MCO) due to COVID-19. 

There are three ways to support the initiative: (1) donate supplies, (2) become a volunteer, and (3) tell all your friends about Bulu-Bulu Initiative! 

Currently, Bulu-Bulu Initiative is raising funds to help support animal shelters (NGOs and independents) and feeders to supply food for cats and dogs under their care. They target to supply RM1,000 worth of food to each shelter and RM100 worth of food to each feeder. With your help, the more funds Bulu-Bulu receives, the more shelters and feeders they can support.

Once they reach sufficient funds and have verified the receivers, they will purchase and deliver pet food to their doorstep – 100% of proceeds from this campaign will be used to purchase food for the cats and dogs.

Please donate to Bulu-Bulu Initiative here https://bit.ly/3idFry0

Fun fact: Bulu-Bulu named their campaign in reference to Biji-biji Initiative! 

Be a part of the “I Am, and I Will” campaign by the National Cancer Society Malaysia Melaka 

“I Am, and I Will” calls for recognition that our actions have an impact on everyone around us; our communities, networks, cities, and even across nations. 

This challenging year is a reminder of the enduring force of collaboration and how our commitment to act can prompt influential advancements in decreasing the global impact of cancer.

Biji-biji Initiative’s sister organization Me.reka is collaborating with the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) Melaka on a campaign to raise awareness and educate on various aspects of cancer, rehabilitation, and services provided by NCSM Melaka. 

Show your support and join the fight against cancer by donating to NCSM Melaka through bank transfer (make sure to add “#NCSMMelaka” in the Donation Remark field):

5144-2210-5764

Maybank

The National Cancer Society of Malaysia

Check out NCSM Melaka here.

(4) Stay connected with loved ones online 

Due to the interstate travel ban, many will be unable to reunite with family members for the Chinese New Year. However, it is still important and possible to stay connected with loved ones even apart – by going online! 

This can entail video-calling family members via Zoom, WhatsApp call, FaceTime, or any other video-conferencing platform. 

Missing a classic card game of chor dai di, or “big two”? Don’t let the pandemic stop you from engaging in a fun round of games – a great way to spend time together is to play games online as a group. 

Check out some fun games to play on Zoom here.

Apart from Zoom, online social spaces can also be created with Wonder.me for a more engaging way to stay connected. 

For those seeking to celebrate Chinese New Year with virtual events  – we’re happy to announce three online cultural events

Check out this article from The Star for more details about the three virtual events. 

(5) Appreciate loved ones and be thankful

Remember what’s most important during the festive season – keep your loved ones close, even the ones you cannot physically see this year.

Times are challenging, but remember to be thankful for what you already have. 

A year of diligence and strength 

It seems fitting, then, to be ushering in the year of the Ox. 

The Ox symbolises diligence, dependability, strength, and determination – essential qualities to stand the trials and tribulations of uncertain times. 

Have a happy Chinese New Year! May the year be filled with happiness, good fortune, and prosperity. 

Write to us at [email protected] to let us know which Chinese New Year tradition you’re doing differently this year, or drop us a comment.