As per Chinese tradition on CNY eve, my extended family of 3 generations on my paternal side gathers at my grandparents for our reunion lunch. We also take the occasion to celebrate my grandmother's birthday - this year she's 78 and I thank God for her good health! :)
Interestingly, I'd just found out from my mom that back then most people lacked calendars so they didn't know their exact birthdays except for the year that they were born in, unless their birthdays coincided with landmark occasions like my grandmother's with CNY eve.
This year's attendance was 14 adults and 9 children (thankfully grown up beyond the ultra noisy phase of endless screaming and running into walls).
And so, without fail, annually we tuck into regular steamboat fare and, recently added to the menu, red wine which also brought much red-faced mirth and mutual teasing about drinking limits.
I used to be awfully quiet at such gatherings because everyone's speaking in Teochew. At least this year I had a 5min conversation with my grandma - in Teochew!
And I found out that her sewing machine that I used to imagine was my war-torn battle fort for my Transfomers toys is actually 22 years older than I am. My grandparents had bought it for $264 in the 1950's and it became a source of income by making school uniforms.
Without fail, we also bring out the birthday cake and take an extended family photo when the same uncle has to set the camera on auto and to the children's excitement and glee, scramble back into the picture. Before the kids grew up, someone had to attract the infants' attention and hopefully solicit a cheerful smile.
After the mass photo, each family then take turns for a Kodak moment with my grandparents. Watching my uncles and aunts organize varying configurations and shouting for the missing members to quickly take up positions amused me to no end. More than that, I'm so glad to be a part of this big fat happy family.
There was the usual bantering, updating each other on the past year's activities (boasting for some), comparing children's growth spurts or performance in school, reminiscing old times etc. The living room was kept abuzz with chatter and the frequent piercing of children's laughter for the entire afternoon.
And then I remember PM Lee stressing family ties. Simply because these are ties that bind and they cannot be broken. These ties are ultimately what's important in life.