I am sure it must have been awesome; I was enlightened by the constant and instant updates of new photos throughout the festive celebration on my social media accounts (especially Facebook) of how everyone was enjoying themselves. It was definitely a delightful treat; not to mention refreshing, in the least when I see the vibrant lifestyle of most of the people posting details of their lives and their families and friends all on the blue and white page and to a certain extent, it even seemed like it was some sort of a competition with each sharing about how grand their dinner was, how exciting their activities were and even how beautiful their clothes were. It was not in a negative manner though; in fact, I even find it amusing and entertaining to be able to be kept updated of all my friends' lives at a click to scroll down the page.
I am happy to see the beaming faces and I wish everyone all the happiness as well.
I used to take the Chinese New Year in a rather nonchalant mood; meaning I am not really that excited about the festive mood as it approaches, and it was rather weird for children typically look forward to the season to put on their brand new clothes and shoes, and awaits the collection of red angpows (red packets with money) which brings extra pocket money to be spent or, in my case, to be saved in the little piggy bank (this is just a term referring to the coin box; as mine was a rabbit bank, and it was in my favorite pink color too). Perhaps it was due to the fact that Chinese New Year meant lots of homework to work on, and feasting on lots of takeaways or stored food and cookies which were not to the liking of my taste buds. You see, the Chinese New Year happens to be big deal back then among the Chinese community and it is especially so in a Chinese populated neighborhood where everyone takes a break from work to enjoy the festive season; including the morning/night markets, hawker stalls and even restaurants. The only ones which are left open would charge exorbitant prices for a simple meal; unless you go to a place run by Indians or Malays, or the other option would be the always fixed price fast food outlets.
Today is slightly different, and it is not that the Chinese New Year no longer matters, but the folks in business are now smarter to earn the bucks during the festive season when others are resting and then enjoy their break at the end of the Chinese New Year when things have resumed to normal. These folks are definitely enjoying the good fortune and prosper well during the Chinese New Year season, with a price increase in their food and drinks.
I remembered I was also not that fond of a lot of cookies or the festive goodies which many kids would run to, and squeal in delight as they reach their hands for that tin of Kuih Kapit or Kuih Bangkit, or even the chewy sweets. I, on the other hand, run towards the opposite direction.
Perhaps I was just weird, or I did not want to risk falling sick at all, or another simple reason, I hate how those stuffs stick to the back of my teeth and just makes me so uncomfortable, and for that reason, I've sworn them off. Weird, I know.
Well, I am still a normal kid who loves collecting angpows, although I typically only collect from my close relatives and I don't usually go to my friends' houses as I just don't find it that appropriate to be asking for angpows from their parents, even during the festive season. I just don't feel right about it; and this is just from my personal perspective. Another thing that I used to do during the festive season, is to finish up my homework and revise my chapters on the textbook. Sounds crazy, right? And I know you are just this close to calling me a nerd, or a dumb bookworm.
Maybe I am, I just love books, and I want to prepare myself ahead of class and to understand all the stuffs that I have been taught. Of course, I don't READ textbooks throughout the entire holidays, I still read my favorite novels more than the non-fiction.
Those were the memories of my childhood during the Chinese New year season.
As I grow older, okay, I am old now, I find myself anticipating the festivities and together with my brother, we would work together to decorate the house and help mum to clean up, and even buy the food stuffs for the reunion dinner or to store for the season. Reunion dinners previously probably just passed as a normal dinner as we always had dinner together every night. My dad used to tell us, "A family that eats together, stays together" which remains etched in my mind, and I strongly believe in this. No one dines first, then others dine later in my family. If we want to eat, we sit down at the table together and eat together, that is the rule.
Since I left for university and then later for work where I was based in another state, traveling home for reunion dinner became something which I looked forward to, as it meant I could stay at home and be with the family (which also meant being pampered and spoilt rotten) even if it meant just for a couple of days.
I slowly started to appreciate the theme of the reunion dinner as it was truly meaningful when the whole family gathers again at the table; chatting away happily and enjoying the food.
After I got married, I switched to sitting down for reunion dinner with my in-laws and it was a unique and enlightening experience to me, exchanging our thoughts and banter with my new family members at the table. I did miss my family, but I did know I could return for the reunion dinner on the second day of the Chinese New Year; a custom practiced by the Chinese society where married daughters are to return to their maiden homes to start off the year ("Hoi Nin" in Cantonese, or directly translated as Opening of the New Year). It was also another happy occasion; when I get to return. While it may seem like I was missing from the reunion dinner on Chinese New Year's eve with my family, I compensated by bringing an additional member (my husband) home for the reunion on the 2nd day. It is definitely interesting how the Chinese customs work sometimes.
As I start to revel in the deeper meaning of the Chinese New Year, I am learning more and more things and enjoying my experience as each Chinese New year comes and goes. I am now mingling with my new family members (maybe not so new anymore), and it is an interesting experience learning to interact with them and understanding their family background.
My family is not really a big one; but my in-laws had a slightly bigger family and there are even children running around. Reunion dinner was also really meaningful as my brothers-in-law and their families are based in other countries, and I could see the smiles and joy on my mother-in-law's face when they return for the celebrations. Such was the drops of contentment in a mother's heart.
This year, I was not that much into the mood, perhaps another sign of getting older, but I did some thinking and made resolutions in conjunction with the new beginning of a lunar year.
I have noticed the signs of age on both sets of parents, and it is evident that they are happy to see their children all grown up and independent nowadays. However, are we truly aware of the things they need? Of course money could help them to survive and buy the things they need to get by the day, but the thing that they would need most is the love and attention from their grown up children, and I wonder whether we have been doing enough, or are we just like the contemporary working people, just satisfying their kids' wants with money?
Besides the parents, are we all just merely putting on shows with the beautiful clothes, shoes, bags and hampers we prepare each year? Do we focus our thoughts on being thankful for our blessings; for being able to have new things to put on and place around the house? While we thank God for being able to afford the things we have, do we also think of those who are less fortunate out there?
Yes, it is good to be able to afford the good food on the table, the beautiful clothes on us and the fireworks to set off to enjoy the festive mood, but sometimes, I just wonder are we all just looking at the surface and merely pleased by the materialistic things in life? Or are we turning ourselves into self-obsessed beings; where we are focused on the things WE have, WE want, WE need, and WE must buy. It seems to be all about us, but when it comes to others, we tend to shy away or mumble a few excuses that we have just enough to feed our own.
Are we all being giving enough?
Festive seasons are not about the parading of the finest cloaks nor the most expensive silver on the table, but rather, it should be about a change deep within, and time to renew the relationship with the ones we love. Start to love ourselves, our parents and our families/loved ones and those around us, and slowly make a change. Confucius had also said in one of his literature that if we were to treat everyone around us like our own family, the world would be a much better place to live in. The same concept was practiced in Christianity where we would refer to one another as brothers and sisters.
As kids, we love to collect the red packets filled with money and when we grow up and gotten married, we are the ones filling those red packets with the money to be given to others. I have even heard of those who quarrel over the amount of money to be put into that red packet, and those who complain about the amount they received. Is that the spirit of giving and receiving in a brand new year?
When we put that money into the pocket, we should not be counting only the dollar notes, do fill it with sincere prayers and thoughts. We share and exchange the well wishes with each other during the festive season, and usually the younger ones(or the recipients) would wish the elders all the good blessings before receiving the red packet. Let these be real words from the heart, put some thought into it and wish from the bottom of your heart.
For those giving the angpows, return the wishes with a warm thought and smile, and also wish the recipients the wonderful things you can think of and hope for.
When you do good with a sincere heart and with a genuine intention, it can be felt with the heart and it truly shows on the face. Yes, that eminent glow on the face and a good feeling in the heart is all that matters.
All the beautiful things, food and clothes are just merely cosmetic decorations to enhance the joyous spirit of everyone in wishing for good things at the beginning of the year; hoping to chase away the bad from the previous year and hoping for a change. When the year changes, EVERY one wants changes in their life, and for the better, of course.
For things to change, one must first change....and remember, it always comes from the heart.
When you truly give and receive from the heart, and OPEN up your heart to everyone out there (loved ones and less fortunate ones), you will find that happiness and peace and good things will surely come.
Even the flowers will look especially beautiful when it blooms in full, as it comes from the heart.
May the Horse Year brings you much more joy and good things!~