What we do on Chinese New Year

Window for family holiday

Four families and an individual share their yearly traditions, from dressing up for a photo shoot to cooking a special dish to watching a Jack Neo movie

Instead of visiting relatives, some families choose to spend the Chinese New Year period on holiday abroad because it is the only window in the entire year they get time off to travel.

The Koh family is one such case.

The family business is a car repair and insurance company which is open all year except for the 15 days of Chinese New Year.

This is because a large number of the company's Malaysian workers head home to celebrate with their families, which leaves the firm without sufficient manpower to stay open.

So the bosses take the opportunity to go for a family holiday instead, usually to nearby destinations such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The company is owned by Mr Koh Kong Tat, 58. His son Chris, 33, works for him as a mechanic. The younger Mr Koh is married with two sons aged four and 20 months.

His mother, housewife Yam Kim Lan, 54, says that they began the practice of going overseas during Chinese New Year after her parents and parents-in-law died.

She says: "There is no obligation to be here during Chinese New Year and our relatives understand this is the only period we can take a break.

"Besides, we do meet them from time to time, so we find it more meaningful to enjoy ourselves as the trips help us to recharge for the year."

This year, the Kohs are off to Bangkok for a five-day getaway, together with Chris' wife, Mrs Janice Koh, and their two young sons.

Mrs Koh, a 33-year-old marketing communications manager, says she makes an effort to decorate the house and buy festive goodies to ensure that her children miss out on as little of the festivities as possible.

Her sons get new pyjamas and outfits too.

They usually try to leave for their holiday on the second day of Chinese New Year so that they can squeeze in a visit to her parents' place on the first day.

To "make up" for their absence during Chinese New Year, she says, they also have reunion dinner with her family before they fly.

Her family and friends are used to her being away during Chinese New Year. Some single friends have even tagged along on their trips. They want to escape being grilled by relatives here about their marital status, she says.

As for herself, she looks forward to these trips as "a break from our usual routine".

"It's a time for us to spend quality time together as a family - relaxing and enjoying the food and ambience of the place we travel to," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 07, 2016, with the headline 'Window for family holiday'. Print Edition | Subscribe