January 26, 2009 – Chinese New Year . This is a big celebration for Cambodians too. I was a bit surprised about that.. well, there is no doubting the influence of Chinese to other races right..It’s not an official public holiday here but judging from the traffic jams in almost all intersections, the crowded markets, and the festive atmosphere everywhere, Cambodians are really into it.
Anyway, my in-laws are Cambodians by nationality but they are purely Chinese by descent. So the Lunar New Year is a really a festive celebration for them. The preparations actually started last week. It was general cleaning time. Everything was scrubbed and old unusable stuff was thrown out. My husband says its to symbolize sweeping away all traces of misfortune. As for me, I was only too glad to dust and sweep as I am an obsessive cleaner. Next we refilled rice, sugar, salt etc containers so we could have abundance for the next year.They also prepared gifts to friends and relatives consisting mostly of special sticky rice cakes and round fruits.
Yesterday was the highlight of the celebrations, we went to my in-laws house early to help preparing food. Don’t ask me the names for the food coz I really have no idea and besides we had several viands its hard to keep track :). I’ve noticed a big difference in the food we prepare here with the food most Filipino prepare during celebrations. Pinoys likes meat, creamy, fattening stuff and a lot of foreign cuisine. While here in Cambodia, they mostly prepare native food, plus they have a lot of vegetables and less meat. They also prepare lots of different sauce and dips as meats are mostly just steamed or boiled and it just goes with the sauce. As for dessert, they prefer fresh fruits and I noticed a particular affinity for lychee. What exactly is the link between Chinese and lychee, I dunno I just noticed they like eating that and even in Chinese restaurants their dessert menu commonly has almond lychee and black jelly.
After preparing all those food, everything was set on the table with some icons representing their ancestors and bunches of incense sticks was lit. This part, I’m really sorry I had to go out but my poor asmathic lungs just cannot take the smoke. This ritual is mainly to have the ancestors partake in the food prepared and also to ask their help and guidance for the new year.
Next is burning of the mock money, gold bars etc. This offering is for ancestors subsistence in the other life. I was amazed they even have fake clothes, shoes, cars for this ritual? Oh and they also have imitation passports just in case the ancestors need to travel in the other life. Once the the incense burns off, the family eats together. I must say, the food is delicious and healthy too.
Today is new year so I should be in my best behavior 😛 and yes! I am wearing new clothes( perfect excuse to go shopping) for good luck! Kung Hei Fat Choi, everyone!