The 5 Stages of Lunar New Year Celebrations in Malaysia


The first 15 days of the Lunar New Year, the year of the Rooster, has come and gone in the past 15 days.


As a young adult from a large extended family, the Lunar New Year celebrations is both a joyful and scary process at the same time.

It's a celebration and holiday that I do enjoy for various reasons. Yet, over the years, the Lunar New Year is also something that provokes this pondering: "can I just pack my bags and go on an extended trip overseas for some rest and relaxation?"

Often, I find myself needing a break from the Lunar New Year celebrations that usually goes on for 4 - 7 days with different segments of my family, before the celebrating peters out slowly until the 15th day.

I know this sounds like fun, but you know what does fun require?


Lots and lots of work. Basically, the older you get, the more you work for the Lunar New Year.

These are the 5 stages I go through pre, during, and after the Lunar New Year celebrations each year.

Stage 1: The D/T/F Stage

Yes. You know, the Dread/ Terror/ Fear stage that starts at least a month before the Lunar New Year. Apart from the usual household frenzy (and subsequent nagging, if you live with your parents or in-laws), there is also dreading the questions and statements you will get during the Lunar New Year.

Every thing that you have done within the past year will be up for discussion as well-meaning relatives question you about what you've been up to.

This is enough to fill me, a person who does not like the spotlight, with dread, terror, and fear.

No topic is off-limits, starting from statements on your appearance, to questions about your career, to observations about your love life and family plans ("when are you bringing a boyfriend home?", "when are you getting married?", "when are you having a kid"? etc).

God bless the soul that gained visible weight in the past year.

God bless me. 

This year, in preparation for comments I knew were forthcoming about my weight, I set about buying new clothes that were loose tops, and also bought dark tights to wear despite THIS being Malaysia, a tropical country.

"Oh no. It's not hot at all." 

I wore my new autumn-suited tops on a daily basis during the Lunar New Year, even when there was no air-conditioning available.

I would much rather perspire underneath my clothes than to hear "you gained weight!".

Yes, thank you. I noticed, myself.

Stage 2: The Overeat Stage

During the first week of the Lunar New Year, it is inevitable that I gain even more weight anyway, thus necessitating the need for loose tops.

Each day is filled with food, food, and more food.

Apart from the snacks that pop up (I've tried my best to avoid them this year), like prawn crackers and arrowroot chips, there's also the endless breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I have to attend.

On average in real life, I eat two meals a day, a big one for breakfast, and a small one for dinner.

During the Lunar New Year, this average gets thrown out of whack. People often tell me that I "eat so little!". These are also usually the very same people that tell me that I've gained weight.

Gee, I wonder why I eat so little.

That being said, I've always been on the "stop eating when I feel moderately full" team (SO WHY DID I GAIN WEIGHT IN THE PAST YEAR?). I fully believe that mankind isn't made to eat 8-course heavy meals on a daily basis.

Still, I make like I am a competitive eater during the Lunar New Year, because

a) I have to "give face" to the host/ person who is treating, and
b) I hate food wastage.

It is both a blessing and a curse that I have to keep reassuring the elders in the family that I am not starving myself, and that I have to stop them from ordering/ cooking more because I LITERALLY CANNOT EAT ANYMORE, unless I want to puke.

With dim sum breakfasts, rice lunches accompanied by 5 dishes, and 10-course dinners for almost a week, I returned to my regular simple meals with pleasure after the main celebrations were done.

I love Eating, but I am not much for Mindless Eating, when the taste is not as appreciated because I am physically incapable of having more food without feeling like I will throw up.

Stage 3: The "I Am So Over It" Stage

Family's great.

Usually, it's great from afar.

2 - 3 hours in each other's presence? No problem.

A few days of having to see different members every few hours, without having time to yourself for long stretches of time? Not so great.

There were many moments this Lunar New Year when I daydreamed that I could be in bed, reading a book, listening to music, putting on a facial sheet mask, and sipping tea in silence.

It didn't happen until the 8th day of the Lunar New Year, when it was a Saturday and I had no plans for the evening.

It was blissful.

Perhaps this "I am so over the Lunar New Year celebrations" mindset is a problem unique to introverts? Being in most people's presence drains me of energy, and there was no place for me to rest in the manner and method I wanted to.

It was all, take out plates to serve, make sure everyone's seated, watch the kids, wash the dishes, etc, etc. Even my nights did not feel restful enough.

It's no wonder, then, that I always go through Stage 4 every year, without fail.

 Stage 4: The "I Feel Sick" Stage 

Even as I type this, I'm nursing a running nose that has been plaguing me since ten days ago.

I also felt the beginnings of a sore throat, but LUCKILY it did not develop further into a cough, the way it had in past years.

The human body, or at least, my body, is not designed to do nothing but eat and socialise all day.

Mine is designed to eat (moderately) and sleep (in a room of my own) all day.

Oh, and also reading in silence, of course. I am currently reading the second book in this series, "The Invasion of the Tearling". It's addictive.

My body has once again readjusted to my usual lifestyle, except for my nose that just refuses to stop sniffling. Many a tissue has  been sacrificed for my nose in the past 10 days.

Finally, as the Lunar New Year reaches its ending, I get to enjoy Stage 5.

Stage 5: The "Moneyed"* Stage

*Only applicable to unmarried individuals, while married individuals are probably out-moneyed.

One of the good things about the Lunar New Year is having other people feed me with food that is of a higher "class" than the food I usually feed myself.

It's not that they are more delicious (I happen to think simple dishes are super delicious), but it's that the food I get to have is more expensive than my usual fare.

Take, for example, this dish of glorious cheese-baked prawns.

This is definitely only something I get to see during festivities, and would rarely order if I was paying.

The other good thing is that people literally give me money in red packets, alternatively known as "ang pao".

The idea of "ang pao" is that once you're considered an adult (in Malaysia, it's when you're married), you have to start handing out these red packets during the Lunar New Year as blessings for the next generation as they become adults themselves.

Yes, the book "Adulthood is a Myth" is purposely placed in the photo.

Apparently the only way to be considered eligible to hand out these red packets is when you're bona fide married, or have a child.

Essentially, I suppose, it's a form of saying that you can be truly considered an adult only when you are married.


These red packet blessings make my life a little bit easier each year, as they help pay off bills like insurance and the Internet.

Apart from my travelling, this is one of those rare times where I get to treat myself a little better, instead of having to constantly penny-pinch to achieve my dreams of travelling more /owning my own home.

I guess you can say that I feel slightly more moneyed at the moment.

This is a brief moment, of course, but I definitely enjoy these blessings from my elders before I use them all up. ;)

I will miss this stage when I am considered an adult by Lunar New Year standards, if that is to happen (hur). The love of my husband better be worth missing this stage...


As the firecrackers stop, as family members return to the places where they live and work, and as life goes back to its normal routine (before the next big occasion), I heave a sigh of relief as the Year of the Rooster begins in earnest.

Like dishes, a life lived simply each day is a form of joy that I take much pleasure in too.

Whatever the Year of the Rooster may bring, I  hope that it's always filled with good health, safe journeys, and that each day brings me a step closer to having my dreams fulfilled.