Big gathering a yearly affair for Thia family

In 2014, more than 90 family members across three generations turned up for the Thia family's Chinese New Year gathering. Since then, a big gathering has been a regular thing for the family.
In 2014, more than 90 family members across three generations turned up for the Thia family's Chinese New Year gathering. Since then, a big gathering has been a regular thing for the family.PHOTO: RAYMOND THIA

Chinese New Year reunions are a big deal for the Thia family.

Today, three generations of the family, made up of more than 80 family members from Singapore and Malaysia, will gather to celebrate the Year of the Dog with singing, lo hei and plenty of good food.

"We grew up in a close-knit family," said Mr Raymond Thia, 50, who is part of the second generation. "We previously went visiting from family to family over Chinese New Year."

Mr Thia, who runs a business in food trading, told The Sunday Times that as their numbers grew, they decided to ring in the festivities at one place, as one big family.

In 2014, they booked a function room at his condominium where more than 90 family members turned up.

Since then, the big gathering has become a yearly affair for the Chinese New Year and Christmas celebrations. Last Christmas, 50 members of the family gathered for a barbecue in a park.

Mr Thia will be at today's event with his wife, 47, and their three children, aged 10, 11 and 13.

His 74-year-old father and 72-year-old mother will also be at the celebrations. Mr Thia has two younger sisters, aged 48 and 46.

The oldest Thia family member at the gathering this year will be his 79-year-old uncle, while the youngest to join the celebration will be his 2½-month-old niece.

Organising the celebrations is no small feat, said Mr Thia. There is even a planning committee which oversees matters like programme and catering.

He estimated that the get-together costs at least $1,000, with different family members chipping in.

This year, his uncle is paying for the buffet, while an aunt is covering costs for lo hei and a cousin is sponsoring the props. "We started planning for this some time after last Christmas," said Mr Thia.

This year's half-day event will be held at a function room of a condominium in the east and will include a worshipping session for the Thia family, who are Christians, lo hei celebrations, photo-taking at a photo booth, activities like futsal and frisbee, as well as a buffet spread.

"Family members of my generation start by giving oranges to our aunts and uncles," said Mr Thia. "Then we look for the younger generation, so we can give hongbao.

"It's very chaotic to try to recall whom we gave the hongbao to," laughed Mr Thia.

"So usually we write their names on the hongbao."

This year, each generation will have its own lo hei table, he said. "It'll be messy, but fun."

He would like the younger generation to take over the family tradition of these Chinese New Year get-togethers.

"After this year, I hope we can pass the baton to my kids' generation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Big gathering a yearly affair for Thia family'. Print Edition | Subscribe