Chinese New Year Celebration

“Wow you’ve grown so much! How old are you now?”

“Got girlfriend or not? When are you getting married?”

“What are you studying now? Oh, geology - very interesting! Huh? Not geology ah? What is theology?!”

Such are the questions and remarks I would typically have to fend off from well-meaning relatives if I was celebrating Chinese New Year back in Singapore. This year, however, I had the great joy of celebrating it with my fellow scholars and alumni of the Ertegun House community, with conversations which were no less stimulating than the conversations I would have had with kaypoh (A Singlish word meaning “nosy” or “being a busybody”) uncles and aunties, albeit on vastly different topics.

I found out about some of the best eateries in Oxford.

I found out that the Persian New Year (Nowruz) coincides with the spring equinox.

I found out that the longest-lived goldfish on record was named Tish, who passed away at the ripe old age of 43 in North Yorkshire in 1999 (

In addition, those of us in Oxford were blessed to receive from Maria a lovely set of Chinese New Year decorations. To commemorate the start of “the year of the ox”, according to the Chinese zodiac, we each received a stuffed toy ox, which proved to be something of a cult favourite (I named mine ‘Oxymoron’).

Amidst all the fun and laughter, it was tremendously encouraging to catch up with friends old and new. It has been a rough year for all of us, and I was particularly happy to see some of the scholars who aren’t currently based in Oxford. What’s more, throughout the whole evening, not one person asked me how old I was nor when I’m getting married. Truly, what a special Chinese New Year we had.

Noel Cheong