Zoe Tay loves, and we mean lurves, Chinese New Year. We subject the Ah Jie to a totally random, potentially revealing – she keeps an ang pow record! – CNY test. (This is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in Issue 1164, Feb 7, 2013)
1. When you learn that a friend has given your kids a $100 ang pow each while you only gave a $20 ang pow to hers, you:
a) Ask her to return the ang pows so you can top them up.
b) Buy her kids toys the next time you see them.
c) Do nothing
ZOE TAY: “I would give her kids a bigger ang pow next year. I keep a record of how much ang pow each person gives so I can return the favour the next year. My sis taught me to do this for my wedding. It’s actually very paiseh ’cos I have three kids so people will have to give three ang pows. That’s why I have to keep track. But to my close friends, I’ll say, “Who tell you to give birth to only one kid?” (Laughs)
2. You’re about to go for a CNY gathering at a friend’s house and you find out that your Mandarin oranges are rotten. Do you:
a) Drive down to the nearest grocery store to buy fresh ones.
b) Spray them with orange paint.
c) Hope that your friend won’t notice that they’re rotten.
Zoe: “What I would do too is to call a friend who’s also a guest at the party and ask her to pass me oranges at the door. This actually happens quite a lot.”
3. An unexpected guest and his three kids show up at your house on the first day of Chinese New Year. When you scramble to prepare an ang pow for them, you realise that you only have $100 notes in your purse. Do you:
a) Reluctantly stuff each ang pow with a $100 note.
b) Pass one $100 note to your friend and say, “Split among all three, okay?”
c) Quickly excuse yourself, escape through your back door and drive to the nearest 7-Eleven to get small change.
Zoe: “Not possible lah, this question. You’ll always have notes in small denominations on Chinese New Year. But if really don’t have, I’ll just say, “Sorry ah, no small change, okay, right?”
4. Your guests are munching happily on your pineapple tarts when your maid suddenly tells you that they’ve expired. Do you:
a) Let them continue eating. What they don’t know won’t kill them.
b) Distract them, then throw the box away.
c) Tell them immediately and say that you’ll pay for their medical fees if they fall sick.
Zoe: “I would choose a) ’Cos I know they won’t fall sick (laughs). This question is flawed. Pineapple tarts won’t expire during Chinese New Year ’cos they are only made a few days before. Unless you’re talking about those that don’t use preservatives. Those are good.”
5. You’re on your way to a friend’s house for a gathering, and you find out that someone whom you’re not particularly fond of is there now. Do you:
a) Turn up anyway. Chinese New Year is a time to make peace.
b) Tell your friend that something came up and that you’ll drop by later.
c) Not show up and bitch to your friends about what happened.
Zoe: “I can don’t invite that person to my party, but I won’t turn my friend down. This has never happened to me. (Laughs) There’s no one I really hate.”
6. A guest shows up at your CNY party dressed all in black. Do you:
a) Ask her to leave.
b) Throw her a red shawl.
c) Act like it’s nothing, but bitch about her to the rest of your guests.
Zoe: “I’ll let her be. It’s so common these days. My niece always shows up in black. We’re quite modern so it’s fine. But as an elder, I’ll tell her nicely that it’s not very good to greet her grandma in black. Anyway, teenagers won’t listen to you.”
7. A kid opens the ang pow you gave him, and loudly exclaims, “Wah, so stingy!” Do you:
a) Say, “Oh I gave you the wrong ang pow!” and then give him one with more money inside.
b) Pretend you didn’t hear.
c) Laugh it off but make a mental note not to invite this family ever again.
Zoe: “I would tell him,_‘I’m sorry, I’m poor!’ I haven’t been called stingy, but a kid once announced the amount I gave him, and I told him, “Sorry, that’s all I have!” (Laughs) I always prepare my ang pows and how much to give each person in advance. I’ll also tell my mum to pass ang pows to people like the bus driver and the rubbish collector. The most basic ang pow will have at least $8.”
8. You’re playing mahjong with your elders and you’re winning every round. You sense that they’re getting unhappy. Do you:
a) Continue winning. Who cares? There’s money involved!
b) Purposely lose a few rounds so they’ll cheer up.
c) Wash your hands hoping that it will kill your winning streak.
Zoe: “B). “Aiyoh, to you, you’re just entertaining them, but to these elderly people, they’re playing with their lives. Why not just let them be happy? I will panchan (‘give chance’) for sure, or not take their money if they lose.”
9. You see a curly strand of stray hair in the plate of fatt choy your guests are tucking into. Do you:
a) Ignore it. They wouldn’t know the difference anyway.
b) Casually scoop it out and keep mum about it.
c) Ask your maid to prepare a new plate.
Zoe: “This question very gross leh.”
10. You’ve been queuing for 45mins at your favourite bak kwa stall and just when it’s your turn, the auntie before you buys everything up. Do you:
a) Kick up a big fuss and demand the store makes more
b) Offer to buy some from the auntie.
c) Suck it up and blame your bad luck.
Zoe: “I’m good at sweet-talking. I’ll ask the owner, “Auntie, how come no more? You must call me when you have, okay?” They’ll usually say, “Next time, don’t queue. I’ll just pass to you.” (Laughs)
11. There’s a superstition that children are not to be punished during CNY, no matter how naughty they are. What would you do if your boys take a marker and draw on your Birkin while you’re entertaining guests?
a) Cane them.
b) Pretend that everything is all right, then cane them after your guests leave.
c) Wait until CNY is over, then cane them.
Zoe: “C). But my kids know better than to do that. They know they can only draw on paper. They can’t even paste stickers on the wall. Once, my dog bit my Birkin. Luckily it was just the strap, which still cost money to fix. But these things aren’t important to me anymore — they’re just material objects.”
12. Which of the following is a punishable offence for your sons during CNY?
d) Refusing to go visiting
e) Not greeting you with auspicious phrases in the morning
Zoe: “It’s all okay. The minute I open my eyes, I know they’ll fi ght ’cos they are boys, and crying is a kid’s privilege. As for gambling, my husband says that playing cards is like learning Maths, so okay lor.”
13. One day, you catch Brayden drinking a can of beer from the CNY party the night before. Do you:
a) Scold him.
b) Have a good laugh over it.
c) Tell him that he shouldn’t be drinking at his age and that he should wait until he is 18.
Zoe: “C) He’s already asking why he can’t drink. I don’t know if he has tasted alcohol before. I remember trying beer when I was young and I hated the taste! I still do!”
14. You’re the only person who saw the 4D number given out by the lion dance troupe and everyone starts asking you for it. Do you:
a) Spread the luck and tell everyone.
b) Say you didn’t see it and then go buy the number later.
c) Tell only your closest friends.
Zoe: “C) My friend who buys 4D a lot told me that if I invest too much on one number, it will ‘sink’, which means it won’t open. One cannot be too greedy. Last time, I’d tell everyone to buy the number, which means it will ‘sink’ ’cos everyone will invest in it. (Laughs) So now, I’ll just tell close friends — cannot be too selfish.”