The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in the year of the metal ox with different light for 1.5 billion people who observe the celebration around the world. With the Movement Control Order (MCO), Malaysians are also celebrating the Chinese New Year 2021 (CNY 2021) under strict standard operating procedures (SOP).
The 10km travel restriction also means that we cannot travel interstate or inter-district to ‘balik kampung’ or visit our family in the hometown as we normally do.
“As my parents will be alone, I have been curating a care package for them based on their favourite things. It has been tough for them as they haven’t been able to do the things they normally do like shopping or baking with the family. Also, we seem to be doing more to try and reclaim the festive spirit,” says Grace, 40, who hopes that the Covid-19 can get under control safely, quickly and permanently.
Alexis, 41, who celebrates CNY 2021 with family members living under the same roof chooses not to go to her parents’ house although they are living less than 10km from her.
“I’m not willing to take the risk as they’re in their late 70s and early 80s. I could be an asymptomatic carrier and not realise it and they tend to let their guards down as well when they’re around their grandchildren… that means, forgetting to wash hands with soap, touching or hugging the kids etcetera,” she said.
Fully aware about the seriousness of Covid-19 situation in Malaysia, Lim Wee Jean, 43 and her family have decided not to expose themselves, especially her children to anyone at all during the CNY.
“This means that there will be no reunion dinner for us as my parents live in Johor, and my father-in-law currently lives in a nursing home. My parents and I have accepted that this would be the year where we will celebrate CNY virtually.
“Even during the RMCO period when interstate travel ban was lifted, we kept ourselves distanced from them and did not go back to visit them at all. We felt that there was too much risk as we come from a red zone area. There is no good in putting my parents at risk. We can always keep in close touch by video calling each other every now and then.
“And there will totally be no CNY visitation this year to our relatives’ houses no matter how near they are. Nor would we accept any guests for visitation which we had made it clear to everyone.
“However, we still hang on to certain traditions such as baking CNY goodies to be shared with friends and neighbours, preparing new CNY clothes and decorating the house. Just for kids to experience CNY tradition as it only happens once a year,” she said.
Although Eda Ismail, 48, doesn’t celebrate the CNY like her peers, she gets into the same excitement with her family by doing some decluttering, spring cleaning and redecorating their home. To her festivities like the CNY, Hari Raya, Deepavali and Christmas are meant to be celebrated with the family. However, she would be cautious about visiting her elderly family members this year. She would usually go on holiday or visit her grandmother during this time of the year. However, she is spending the holidays at home and undertakes some projects with her husband and children instead.
“The latest MCO ruling has been slightly relaxed, and I am happy that my friends are given the chance to meet their loved ones. I am sure that the responsible Malaysians shall follow the SOPS, but I do hope the authorities will enforce it well and fairly,” she said.
On the other hand, a feeling of emptiness surrounds Hinz Lew, 37 as she spends CNY 2021 alone in her apartment, having fast food for reunion dinner. Although her family members are in the Klang Valley, they are so near, yet so far with the 10km travel restriction. She is unable to visit anyone as they live more than 10km away from her. After complying diligently to the MCO, only going out for essential purposes and staying indoor most of the time, she only wishes to breathe freely in the Year of the Metal Ox.
During a usual CNY family reunion, there will be over a hundred Low family members gathering under one roof at a single time. Although they live close to each other, the mass gathering is definitely not happening this year.
Embracing the new normal, Low P.Y., 36, took the initiative and organised a virtual ‘bai nian’ (paying CNY visits) for the elders in her family during the first day of CNY. For the elders, this is the first time in their lives that they could not gather, a tradition they have been practicing for decades during the festive season.
It has been an uphill climb trying to educate the elders about Covid-19. Having family members who have been tested positive for the disease, the virtual session was a great way for the elders to ‘meet’ without exposing themselves to potential danger. At the same time, family members who were working outstation could also reconnect during the virtual meet up.
The Covid-19 pandemic and MCO could be a blessing in disguise if we are creative and keep our spirits high. The choice is ours, to fully utilise the travel ban opportunity to self-reflect, reconnect with ourselves and family members living under one roof, protect, support and lift each other. May the Year of the Metal Ox brings us great health, joy and prosperity. – MalaysiaGazette