Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year – A traditional celebration of the new year of the lunar calendar, mostly celebrated by Asian Chinese or of Chinese heritage. The amazing part of which, is the different practices adopted by the various dialect groups and family traditions, which gives the variety even through a common festival celebrations. However, the hype and excitement of this festival may not be as before…
Sitting around the dinner table, I listened to my grandmother’s story of how the Lunar New Year is celebrated amongst them. The exchange between her and my mum, was about the fond childhood memories of how they prepared and celebrated the Lunar New Year.
It will start from a few days before when spring cleaning takes place, clearing up and cleaning the place to welcome better fortune for the New Year. The mother will often be the most hardworking, taking care of all the chores and even making sure that the reunion dinner spread is prepared to be served, with everyone helping out and eagerly looking forward to their favorite dish. That is followed by a walk around the town, greeting the neighbors, playing with the other kids or patronizing the night market. The night is long when kids spent their night with each other, and keeping an eye on an incense or joss stick, making sure it stays burning till the morning because it signifies the life of their parents.
As the night passes by, I was wondering what will be happening in a decade or two down the road, when we become more modernized.
Will we still enjoy the simple, old traditions that gave us that joy we have experienced?
It is harder now to build a community like the good old days because family members and extended family members are lesser in numbers and lesser in interaction time. We no longer have a family of 8-10, nor do we have open door policies for neighbors to weave in and out just for a chat. With technology and screen time taking up most of our interaction, we have gotten less accustomed to people in general and even lesser room for patience and empathy. [Read: We want it Now]
The Tradition of Reunion Dinner
All the hard work and grocery shopping comes down to this most important dinner, one of reunion and family time together.
This may no longer be symbolic because families are smaller these days and can easily get together. However, in the past, where family members of different generations are spread across the country in various towns, this is when all gathers for some jolly good time. This is also the time when that savory traditional food prepared with secret home recipes, one where all family members look forward to, are placed onto the tables.
As time advances, the traditional food that are prepared during this reunion dinner may just be bought from a stall or supermarket near you. Beside the smaller family size, the need to really spend time in the kitchen to whop up something nice may be a daunting task or one that isn’t reciprocated well.
I remembered a time when I upset my mum during a reunion dinner because I exclaimed how bad the food tasted, being half-cooked and too salty. I neglected that she was out working in the day, and returned home to prepare dinner whilst working on the cleaning of the house. It wasn’t a good day to start the New Year with, and certainly not one that we both enjoyed.
It was because of then, that I have managed to express my thoughts in a much subtle way.
After all, we are not doing an episode of Hell’s Kitchen.
The Tradition of Seeking Forgiveness
For the past few years, the Lunar New Year is another day on the calendar for me, aside from the more frequent gatherings with friends. Extended family members fell out because of indifference, because of the ego they held, because of the unwillingness to put things aside.
In a traditional practice from the Muslim community, it is said that they practiced the seeking for forgiveness. That to me is a beautiful practice.
Throughout the year, it is inevitable that we may cause hurt, frustration or disappointment to the people we care because of our short span of awareness during that particular moment. It may not come as soon as it is but unless we seek for the opportunity to let go, we may never find peace.
Seeking forgiveness is a two-way traffic – where one recognizes that he/she is at fault and the other willing to let bygones be bygones. The result, both parties gain by letting a burden off.
Beauty in Cultural Practices
Throughout the world, there are multiple cultural practices and traditions, be it from a city or from a certain ethnic group, they can be festivals or they can just be household practices.
As we get modernized and more urbanized, it is harder to look at traditions from the good old days of folklore and beliefs. But the problem we face is not only the loss of such celebrations but also a deeper understanding or appreciation.
Perhaps the simplest gestures these days may no longer be “interesting” or “exciting”.
What are some traditions that you are fondly reminiscing?