Ex-rubber tapper's 11 children and 47 grandchildren carry on CNY tradition in Malaysia

VIDEO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

NIBONG TEBAL (THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A duck and chicken with about a dozen bottles of carbonated drinks passed off as a luxurious Chinese New Year reunion dinner for the Lim family 40 years ago.

Back then, the head of the household was rubber tapper Lim Tang Too. He died in 2008.

Despite his hardship, he did well as a father. Of his 11 children, eight sons are now doctors. Another is a businessman. One daughter is a lawyer and another girl is a proud homemaker.

Of his 47 grandchildren, 32 are doctors and six are studying medicine. The others are working towards careers as lawyers, architects and bankers.

Nowadays, their reunion dinners comprise a plethora of sea cucumbers, abalones, prawns, crabs and other mouth-watering dishes.

Each year, one of Mr Lim's children hosts the dinner. And this time, it's his businessman son Lim Boon Tai's turn.

Dr Lim Boon Hock, the seventh son, said the reunion dinner was a reflection of his family's growth from poverty to prosperity while keeping alive unity between the siblings.

"We do not buy or order the dishes. Till today, we work together to prepare the 13 to 14 dishes for the dinner," he said at Boon Tai's home in Jawi on Thursday (Feb 15).

Loud laughter and chattering of more than 60 family members could be heard.

Dr Lim Boon Han, the ninth son, said it was a "mission" for everyone to gather on every Chinese New Year's Eve. The yearly venue used to be at their hometown in Muar, Johor, when Tang Too was still alive.

"But after his passing, we let everyone have a chance to host the dinner."

He added that some of the family members were flying in from Britain, Australia and Ireland, while the others were arriving from Johor, Melaka and Kuala Lumpur.

Karin, the eighth child, said the reunion dinners were dedicated to Mr Lim, who was a frugal man and worked hard to provide for the big family.

Mr Lim's widow Loo Siew Chin looks forward to the dinner every year as she gets to meet all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren - in one day.

The 96-year-old former rubber tapper said her secret to longevity was to always have a generous and kind heart.

Speaking in fluent Hokkien, she said it was a blessing to see all her children and their families enjoy happy, comfortable lives now.

"Our reunion dinners get bigger every year," she said.