My life as a Malaysian doctor in the United States.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Memories of Chinese New Year, part II
Money. When it comes down to it, Chinese New Year is about money, no? After all, why would strangers take their 5 kids and 4 nephews and nieces to your open house, to have them line up, hands clasped like they were going to pound you to death, to wish you 'Kong si Fat Chai'? And who is Chai, anyway, and why is he fat?
You'd get money in angpowes, or red packet, and keep them close to you. As a greedy kid, I learnt to wear pants with deep pockets (plenty of stash space marr). Angpows that felt thick were a good sign. Angpows that clinked were bad ($1 coins). After you'd collected a significant amount of moo-lah, you'd adjourn to a friend's house, where the real thing began. Two-lup. 21 o'clock. All meant the same thing: Blackjack. Probably the only time of the year adults condone gambling, even for kids. Usually small-time affairs, bets of 25 cents or so. Though I'm sure somewhere out there some kid's placed his dad's car keys in the pot before. It was serious business. You'd eye your fellow cheaters players with hawkeyes, slowly sipping your stiff drinks (7-Up), carefully angling the card ever so slightly from the table to look at your hand. Life or death serious. Chinese New Year isn't Chinese New Year without the gambling. Usually my dad or older brother would be the 'chongker'. Or dealer. Gutsy; you'd either made a ton of cash (ie. 5-10 dollars) or lost some. And as a kid, I sucked at gambling. I lost to my parents. I lost to my brothers. I lost to my friends. And I even lost to my kid sister. I tried everything; even the customary red underpants while playing cards (for good luck)(they ALL must have been wearing red underwear, double-layered, no less), or even going commando (not very comfortable).
I discovered only this year at our Chinese New Year party that CNY-Blackjack rules aren't the same as the Bellagio card rules. No such thing as getting triple for two aces. Or double for not having busted with 5 cards ('five dragons'). Heck, you only get 1.5x for a blackjack. Cheh.
True to our nature, when the 30 or so of us got together for CNY this year, we broke out our lion (again, I danced the part of the lion ass), homemade 'yee sang', and more importantly, the gambling table. And for as long as I can remember, I actually made $10 (USD!).
It's our way of feeling closer to home on this auspicious event. This is when I'm usually most homesick, since for many of use this is THE event of the year.
Found this video off YP's blog. Man, if this doesn't make you homesick this time of year, I don't know what will. You've been warned...
Whoever Chai may be,Gong Si Fat Chai, everyone! (Gambling session, my place, midnight)
A Malaysian endocrinologist, trained in a major academic center in USA, and now surviving in the world of practice after 12 years of training.
To maintain patient confidentiality, names, ages and genders have been altered (And some stories totally fabricated to fool gullible readers).
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