(TL;DR) Being able to celebrate Chinese New Year means that we’re actually pretty lucky.
Another Chinese New Year come and gone.
Another couple of days filled with visiting relatives, receiving ang baos. Sure, having to face annoying questions from our relatives can be as painful as pulling teeth at times, and who really has the energy to fight through crowd to buy yet another red shirt?
But when caught in a whirlwind of pleasantries, Chinese New Year goodies, and loud dong dong qiang music, the meaning behind the celebrations become a little more than an afterthought. Especially as part of a generation where looking for meaning in all that we do, the excessive nature of these celebrations seem like a practice of the old world, ready to be forgotten. In fact, millennials in China have reportedly said that they’d rather spend CNY surfing the internet, sleeping, watching TV, or spending time with friends than celebrating with family. We wouldn’t be too surprised if our own singaporean millennials feel the same.
What we often forget about this celebration and its many seemingly outdated traditions is that it continually shows us how lucky we are.
Let’s take for example the tradition of having lots of food. A full rice bucket is seen as a sign of good fortune, and having leftovers after a meal means that we will never live in want for the rest of the year. While we eat happily, knowing that there will be tons to spare after to ensure our good fortune, many families still struggle to find money to have a satisfying dinner. This may sound like a classic example of the “children in Africa are starving” nag, but even Singapore-born charity Food from the Heart recognise the amount of leftovers that are left from local eateries are able to feed the less fortunate in Singapore, and operate solely to bridge that gap.
Even the colour red is a sign of how far we’ve come. While traditionally we tell the story of how red was the colour that was used to scare away the great beast “nian” from terrorising villages, the truth is that red dye was heavily coveted because of how expensive it was, and was often only worn by royalty. These days, every departmental store is filled with red, and we wear it without a thought in the world.
The list goes on and on…
Whether we receive angbaos with $2 or $200, it means that our relatives had money to spare us, while approximately 20% of resident households in Singapore are earning less than $1,500 a month. The homes that we enter let us in with open arms, willing to feed tens, twenties, or more of us, because we are family. And we, in turn, have the means to do the same.
And when we land our first job, how lucky are we to be able to thank our parents for their hard work with a small token in a little red packet?
In our hopes for good fortune, don’t forget to cherish the good fortune we already have. And the next time we wince at a bright-red outfit, scroll through our phones in absolute boredom, or fend off an auntie’s nagging about getting married, remember how lucky we are to be able to ‘suffer‘ through yet another real Chinese New Year.