How Much Will Chinese New Year Traditions Cost You This Year?
With Chinese New Year songs of every kind piping out from every shop you pass by, it is impossible not to be excited about the upcoming festival, especially for the Chinese. Not veering from the norm, consumerism rises every year before and during Chinese New Year.
However, with the rising cost of living, Malaysian Chinese are struggling to maintain the air of merriment and traditions of the New Year.
In general, festive food is expected to be 10% dearer while imported festive food will increase by even more thanks to our weak Ringgit combined with soaring inflation. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Malaysia’s inflation rose by 4% in the last quarter of 2022 with food as the main contributor to the increase. In short. be prepared to pay more for seafood, preserved meats, mushrooms and other indispensable items for reunion dinners!
Looking at the rising cost of Chinese New Year traditions, how will you be celebrating this Lunar New Year?
1) Reunion dinner
No Chinese New Year reunion dinner is complete without a lavish meal – no horsing around it. Traditionally, families gather at their ancestor’s home to have a home-cooked meal together. It is more about family spending time together and not really about enjoying expensive meals.
However, today most families opt to go for an extravagant meal at swanky Chinese restaurants, as cooking a huge meal takes too much time and effort.
A lower-range Chinese New Year set menu for 10 people, which cost about RM500++ in 2013 will cost at least RM1200 to RM1500 this 2023!
2) Mandarin oranges
Mandarin orange is a must-have for the Lunar New Year. However, this year, be prepared to pay more for mandarin oranges. The price of lokam (mandarin oranges) from China will be dearer by 20% to 60% this year.
Even medium sized lokam are going for over RM30 per box while premium Japanese XL ones going for over RM100 per box.
3) Yee sang
Yee sang, or Spring Toss, is a Malaysian Chinese tradition to usher in the Lunar New Year as it is believed to symbolise good luck, prosperity, health and all things auspicious. Yee Sang comprises thin slices of pickled vegetables and other ingredients which are mixed together thoroughly before the dish is consumed.
A full portion of salmon yee sang from Chinese restaurants instead of supermarkets, used to cost around RM70 in 2013, but it will cost over RM200 this year.
4) Ang pow
Though there may not be a written rule or market rate for ang pows, it does fluctuate in tandem with inflation. Some purists think that pegging a rate on ang pow go against the spirit of Chinese New Year as the gift of giving red packets should be from the heart.
Although, the amount to give in your ang pow is entirely up to you, an RM2 ang pow may be frowned upon by youngsters. However, increasing the amount you give in your ang pows every year just to save “face” may result in heavier financial burden.
Decorating and spring cleaning for the festive season are a given. Prior to the festival, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit.
These decorations, mainly in red and gold, symbolise good fortune and joy. However, this year, families may have to cut down on decoration as reports have found decorative artificial flowers cost at least 10 – 20% more.
6) Lion dance
Lion dances are most often performed during important festivals, such as Chinese New Year to bring good luck to the house or premises visited.
If you are thinking of hiring a lion dance troupe to visit your family, be prepared to fork out over RM2500 for a half hour session.
For most Malaysian Chinese, the above traditions are not something new and have been observed since they were children. However, can we afford to continue these traditions?