It takes not working to fully appreciate, say Easter and Chinese New Year

What’s in a holiday if it does not come with vacation days? Not much, in my opinion.

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In that regard, Easter is very much like the Chinese New Year. In the sense that both holidays have ceased to be significant once the perks — chocolate eggs and money-filled red envelops, respectively, stopped. But this year, getting Good Friday off (for the first time ever!) has propelled me to acknowledge Easter as a legitimate, celebratory-worthy holiday.

Which, brings me back to Chinese New Year. 

You see, despite my heritage, my family is not big on the holiday. Given that the majority of my extended family members live in Taiwan, and that I still had to go to school on those days, Chinese New Year paled in comparison to other American holidays. And when my parents stopped giving my sisters and I red envelopes (aka “lucky money”), that pretty much was the last straw.

But I rediscovered the beauty of the holiday when I worked in Korea. You see, I was given not one week, not two weeks, but one-month vacation. I decided the logical thing to do would not be going home to see my family in the States, but binge the entire month traversing Southeast Asia, starting with Malaysia and ending in Vietnam (see Best Vietnamese Street Food, and how HCMC is unPHOghettable).

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Penang, Malaysia -- I got a mandarin and one-Malaysian-dollar lucky money.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Penang, Malaysia — I got a mandarin and one-Malaysian-dollar lucky money.

Thanks to my good friend Adrian and his family, who graciously welcomed me to stay with them during Chinese New Year, I was able to experience Penang like a local.

Look, when we went for dim-sum, I got a mandarin for good luck “吉利” and lucky money. Albeit it was one  Malaysian Ringgit, which equates to approximately 27 cents. But look on the bright side, as my friend Arian pointed out, Malaysia is the only place in the world where McDonald’s Dollar-Vanilla-Cone costs less than a dollar.

More to come, 2011 one-month-SEA:

Malaysia: Penang (Old Town Coffee, Best of Penang Street Fest: Mee/Noodles, Sweets/“Ice Kachang Puppy Love”), Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur
Thailand: Bangkok, Ayutthaya
Cambodia: Siem Reap (aka Angkor)
Vietnam: Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh City


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