This Singaporean Malay-Muslim Man Shares His Experience Celebrating CNY


Qistina Bumidin •  Jan 21, 2023

Chinese New Year is here, and we’re excited! We’ve heard stories of Chinese Muslim reverts trying to bridge the gap between their cultural celebrations and their newfound faith. Have you ever wondered what it's like on the other side of the coin? We talked to Asri, who recounted his experiences as a Malay-Muslim celebrating Chinese New Year for the first time, with his wife Denise Deanna’s (the woman behind famous halal prawn noodles, Deanna’s Kitchen), relatives!

How did you feel prior to your first CNY celebrations?

Credit: Courtesy of Asri

During our first CNY celebrations after getting married I asked my wife lots of questions like the clothes to wear and also things to bring when visiting them. But, normally for Hari Raya, I’m used to wearing dark-colored traditional clothes so this is new to me. 

My wife also taught me how to say the wishes in Mandarin upon passing the oranges to them. I was actually worried that I might say it incorrectly so I practiced it the entire night! ?

In comparison to a few years ago, how did you feel celebrating your CNY celebration now?

The first CNY celebration I had was over 18 years ago. Now? I’m seasoned already. The practice of celebrating CNY doesn’t change. I will ask my wife, when is the reunion dinner this year? How much to withdraw from the bank account for red packets? When to buy fresh flowers?

What was Deanna's family's reaction?

Credit: Courtesy of Asri

We went to my wife’s grandmother’s house, and I was so nervous because all of her relatives were there! My wife actually is the first in her family to have interracial marriage so I’m worried that I would leave a bad impression. Surprisingly the first reaction that they have is to laugh at my attempt to wish them in Mandarin while passing the oranges to them. They are quite amazed that I’ve said it correctly. Guess being the odd one out has it’s advantages as well. ?

What were some of the challenges you faced preparing for your first celebration as compared to now? 

Credit: Courtesy of Asri

At first, I thought it would have been awkward for me when it comes to asking for halal food. Fortunately for me, my wife had informed her grandmother to cook separately and also to use disposable plates & cutleries so it’s not so bad! However, I am still quite unsure about the ingredients behind certain traditional foods offered to me, but I just won’t eat them!

At least I still get to feast on their other foods!  I also always bring some food or kuehs over to share with everyone which helps to break the ice and also for everyone else to share and indulge in some goodies together! ?

One other challenge I face initially would have to be the language barrier. It’s hard for me to communicate with the elders, considering my limited knowledge of Mandarin. Even after more than a decade, they still laugh whenever I wish them in Mandarin! Well, at least I tried right? ?

Now, the only challenge in preparation for CNY is that it's getting so expensive this year! My wife was complaining that the CNY goodies are pricier this year.

Is your family doing anything new for CNY this year?

We are taking CNY decorations to a whole new level this year as we have just moved. So the decorations came out in full force with many prosperity stickers and my mother-in-law who is staying with us, even went to buy 2 pots of citrus plants.

Do you have any advice for Muslims like you out there who are celebrating Chinese New Year with their spouse's non-Muslim relatives for the first time?

Credit: Courtesy of Asri

Just ask your partner what is the correct dress code (i.e. brightly-coloured clothes such as red), the correct phrases to say in Mandarin, and share your concerns with your partner! If you are worried about sharing food & utensils that they provide,  it’s best that you bring along some halal kuehs, desserts or nuts as gifts at the same time you can eat it too.

You should also just go with the flow! Do a little reading on what not to do and what is best to do! Like not wearing black for house visits and sprouting blessings like Gong Xi Fa Cai will do the trick! At the end of it, it is just a huge gathering so don’t need to fret! Other than that, there’s nothing much for you to worry about! Just have to worry about the super full belly you’re going to come home with after a full day of feasting! ?

P.S. Here’s more heartwarming stories to read during CNY:

This article was first published in January 2022