Looking minutely at the Foochows in particular one special social practice is "Sending Peace" to new born babies and to congratulate the happy family for their new addition. Beccause of many factors this practice is slowly fading away so to speak. Many Foochows in Miri do not practise it any more according to some of the younger people. They said that a party with invited guests seem more trendy with food catered from restaurants. Some of the older generations may not be with them to help them carry out the simple custom any way.
Besides some Foochows have even felt that cooking of mien sien to be rather troublesome because of the necessity to dry the freshly made noodles. "The factory dried noodles are not really that tasty.." one aunty did mention to me.
Well the rule is "if you wish to carry on with this custom...do so..and if you don't want to you can always tell your relative you are not having any mien sien party at home....." And sooner or later I am afraid this custom will disappear if elders do not insist. That is I think how culture of a people changes...for better or for worse.
However with a loving and understanding Foochow mother in law a new Foochow mother can be spoilt for 40 days or more! The Chinese in general and the Foochows in particular are concerned about post-delivery care. The new mother's womb has to recover speedily and the loss of blood during delivery must be replenished. This really means that the Chinese confinement will continue to be practised for some time into the future.
Besides the actual confinement can mean staying in the bedroom for at least 3 weeks and meals are even served by the bedside!! However in the modern days such traditional practices are not so strictly followed. But a confinement lady (an experienced cook and carer who is called in to help for a month at a special rate of RM 1600 - 2000)is such an angel in this difficult adjustment period. This lady is responsible for the "recuperation" of the new mother. Special food is cooked - which means five meals in a day so that the new mother can regain all her strength . A good health developed during the confinement period also means that the new mother can remain healthy for the rest of her life!! It used to also mean that she could recover (in the past) quickly and fall pregnant again and give birth to more boys for the family!!
I often enjoy visiting a new born in the Foochow way. When a cousin becomes a new grandmother for example all of us will pester her to "invite" us to the house to "see" the new born. This practice of going to see a new baby is called "Sending Peace" or Sern Ang. The visitors would be laden with bottles of red wine (Foochow red wine or now the popular European or Australian wines) and home raised chickens even!! Some might even bring a basket of eggs (usually 30) for the family.
In return the guests would sit down for a good round table talk and sharing of chicken and noodle soup. Every one would be asked to eat one hard boiled egg. Some times two. It is not so much the eating the guests would enjoy. It is the bonding and re-bonding which makes the evening a wonderful sisterly do. Very few Foochow men would go along with their wives for this kind of function.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit my cousin in Miri for a welcoming of a baby function. It was really a good occasion for cousins and friends to get together and talk about all times. As most of my peers are growing greyer our hearts seem to be so warmed up when we welcome the new borns into our large extended family. Baby Melissa makes the fifth generation of the Tiongs in Sarawak.
|Grandmother Mee Ing (my cousin) carrying the squirmy little princess.|
|New Father ( fourth generation Foochow Sarawakian )...so happy to welcome guests to the home.|
|Baby Melissa Tiong|
|Well prepared Chicken Soup and Mien Sien served in a beautiful ceramic Chinese bowl.|
|Hard boiled eggs. These are not coloured red because the baby is a girl. When a baby boy is born the guests get red coloured eggs.|