Red Dragon - Prose by Chiu-yi Rachel Ngai

I am biased in my love for the spring. The spring brings with it blooming cherry blossoms and cold air that doesn’t cut on its way across smiling faces. Spring brings with it family, music, and celebration of the new year. My people bloom amongst the red and the gold, colours of weddings and money and good fortune. From me to you, my family to yours, Happy New Year. It is the fifth year of the cycle, the Year of the Dragon. Did you know that the first earthquake detectors were dragon-shaped?

Chinese New Year brings with it food and family, lots of blessings, lots of red, even more food, and even more family. Children line up to get red packets. Adults bring out the rice wine and beer to toast new beginnings and new fortunes. As the oldest of the children, I took care of my younger cousins, keeping them entertained and happy. We would play Chinese checkers under the Mahjong table. I'd dig around dusty drawers to find a box of marbles, and we’d all gather around to see who could pick up the most with chopsticks. I would give them piggyback rides until my back was sore, my heart full.

But all good things must come to an end. One by one, family members say their goodbyes and trickle away. They grab their coats, give one last hug and say, “Gong hei fat choi, remember to be good” step into the lifts and into the night. They bundle into double parked cars on narrow roads, push into crowded trains. Young children fall asleep curled up on wooden floors, carried out by their parents with a smile and a wave goodbye. Some of them we won’t see until next year.

We tidy up the empty plates, close the piano lid. We gather scattered plastic coins and dice from under the sofa, behind the television, in the cutlery drawer. Outside, the night is fading. The dragon will be out soon. The decorations can stay up a few more days.

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