When Million Lighting COO Nana Au-Chua first gathered her girlfriends for Chinese New Year lunch six years ago, she never intended it to be the start of a yearly affair that features in glossy society mags.
Typically attended by some 120 ladies, the festivities would take over an entire restaurant for a rousing afternoon of good food and good cheer.
“It started just for fun,” recalls Au-Chua, “and because in subsequent years all my friends look forward to the luncheon, I just continued with the tradition.”
But as with everything else in the last year, even traditions have had to shift and adapt through Covid. So instead of hosting one mega do to usher in the Year of the Ox, the untiring host organised 14 separate luncheons — “not including those I hosted at home!”
“Many people asked, ‘Why do you have to do it? You can always use Covid-19 as an excuse and everyone will understand that you skip a year.’ But I always look forward to meeting with my friends and some of them I only see once a year. So I really wanted to make this annual tradition happen no matter what,” she explains.
The chic Empress restaurant at the Asian Civilisations Museum was again her venue of choice, but this year, with only eight allowed to dine together, the luncheons were held in the restaurant’s Canton private dining room.
Admitting with a smile, she adds: “Although it was more troublesome, I really enjoyed the smaller group and the intimacy that it allowed. I was also quite relieved that I don’t have to run around to each table to talk to my friends.”
Always a highlight, the lohei prosperity toss featured prominently during each lunch, except the auspicious cheers that typically echo across the restaurant were muted this year since masks had to be kept on for the colourful practice.
“I never get tired of Yu Sheng”, says Au-Chua of her favourite Chinese New Year dish, even though she enjoyed it well over a dozen times this season.
Her wish for the Year of the Ox? “Good health — that is the most important thing. As I get older, I appreciate life more and that each day is a gift.”
One other tradition from the annual ladies luncheon was also kept alive: a custom-made plush toy in the form of this year’s zodiac animal went home with each guest as a memento.
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