Jan 18, 2016

    No need for lavish fare to celebrate CNY

    THE basic law of supply and demand tends to go haywire during every festive season.

    The price of large prawns, according to a news report, has skyrocketed to as much as RM120 (S$39) per kilo.

    The fishermen claim it is due to poor catch and bad weather while there is talk that some are stocking up to take advantage of the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations.

    One fishmonger claims the price of large prawns in Penang would go up to at least between RM150 and RM160 a kilo, so it would be wiser to buy now and freeze them.

    My long-time friend based in Penang, who buys seafood direct from the fishermen when they come back with their catch, recently shared how the price goes up along the way.

    "Current seafront prices - white prawns now at RM70 per kilo and flower crabs at RM32 per kilo. Market adds another 30 per cent while the folk in KL and PJ will add another 10 per cent, raising the prices to RM98 and RM45," he posted on Facebook.

    Obviously, the seafront prices have gone up further since his posting. But it is not really these local fishermen who reap the full benefits. In the real world, it is the middlemen who make the most, even if the fishermen do all the work.

    Something fishy is going on. Or we can call it monkey business, though the Monkey will troop in only on Feb 8.

    But let's not blame the animals. Every festival in Malaysia today is tainted by commercialisation. Human beings are the ones who seek to make excessive profits at times like these and many of us resignedly dance to their tune.

    Growing up near a seafront in Penang, I have always been thankful that when there was not enough food to go round, we could go fishing and add God's provisions to our table.

    Come the Chinese New Year, we did not have to worry about the price of chicken because our fowls, reared from day-old chicks, would be ready.

    I believe when money is not the focus, the true spirit of traditions in every festival will stand out. A reunion dinner is to draw family members together, to reflect on how the year has been, and to pray for blessings for a good year ahead.

    And surely a simple meal is sufficient for family members to bond over. No point buying RM160 per kilo prawns and then grumbling throughout dinner about how expensive things are.

    It was the same with the Christmas celebrations last month. Christmas is not about going on a shopping spree in the mall to buy expensive presents to place under a tree.

    A dear friend, until he died, had a tradition of hosting a dinner on Christmas for all those without families to celebrate with. The meal is always simple but many hearts are warmed.

    If we want to splash and splurge on festive occasions, you can be sure there will those waiting to pander to your needs.

    But maybe we can pause and think about the spirit behind the celebrations.

    Perhaps the extra money we intend to spend can go to a worthy cause and help those in real need.

    Celebrate, by all means, but do not overindulge.

    Ordinary fare can taste as delicious as overpriced prawns, when we are in the right company and the right spirit.


    Executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is glad to break tradition and welcome to his simple reunion dinner those who cannot make it home to their own reunions.