TL;DR – I think we have something beautiful.
I love Chinese New Year. It’s a time for feasting, for ang baos (the last year I’m going to get any…), for getting together with family. Yes. There are those irritating questions that some relatives will ask. But… I generally like most of my relatives. So I am looking forward to Chinese New Year.
But that’s not the only reason why I love Chinese New Year.
Every Chinese New Year, I am reminded that Singapore is a place where people of different races and religions can come together to celebrate together.
You see, on the first day of every Chinese New Year, I accompany my parents to the Buddhist Lodge to make a small donation, offer some incense, and have a simple vegetarian meal.
And my family isn’t the only one who does that. A lot of people throng to the Buddhist Lodge on Chinese New Year. The road there gets crowded with people getting in and out of the Buddhist Lodge, with cars dropping off and picking up people. As you can imagine, the situation can get a bit chaotic. Thankfully, there are people helping to direct the traffic.
If you haven’t been to the Buddhist Lodge on the first day of Chinese New Year, you might be surprised to find out that the people directing the traffic are volunteers from a mosque.
And that’s another reason why I love Chinese New Year in Singapore. People of different races and religions get into the celebrations.
And that’s not the only example of non-Chinese being part of Chinese New Year celebrations. Just the other day, the Buddhist Lodge held its annual Hong Bao Distribution. It’s an annual event where the Buddhist Lodge gives hongbaos to needy Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion.
The guest of honour at the event was Minister Chan Chun Sing.
I find it heartening that in Singapore, we can have a Minister who is a Christian distributing hongbaos to non-Chinese in a Buddhist temple. It’s a symbol of the multi-racial, multi-religious society that Singapore is.
Not too far away from the Buddhist Lodge, there was another example of the beauty of multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore. The Sri Mariammam hosted 120 senior citizens from an eldercare home to a Chinese New Year lunch.
And it’s not just during Chinese New Year that we see people of different races and religions coming together, helping one another, and celebrating with one another.
Last year, when Hari Raya Aidilfitri fell on a Sunday a neighbouring mosque and a church in Upper Thomson worked together to coordinate and control traffic around their compounds. Ahead of its Sunday service, Spiritual Grace Presbyterian Church opened up its car park to congregants driving to Masjid Ahmad Ibrahim in Jalan Ulu Seletar. That day, the mosque saw a congregation of 1,500, double the usual size, in turn appointed traffic wardens to ensure that the car park was cleared out in time for church members’ use.
And it wasn’t just the recent few years that the church and the mosque had worked together. Apparently the strong bond and partnership they share dates back to some two decades ago!
Some may say that all of this is wayang. But I don’t think so. I think we have something beautiful, and too many of us just don’t know or appreciate it enough.
Sure, things aren’t perfect. Sure, we still stereotype and caricature people according to their race and religion once in a while. But the fact that we are willing to help one another, that we are willing to celebrate one another’s festivals together, and do so regularly, show Singaporeans of different races and religions can get along with one another.
And that, because Chinese New Year regularly reminds me of that, is another reason why I love Chinese New Year.