The last time we spent Lunar New Year in Singapore as a family was 4 years ago.
The Lunar New Year marks the beginning of Spring but for a tropical country like Singapore, it is hard to witness the beauty of this season. A season where everything living springs to life. It is a joyous occasion.
We trotted down Chinatown weeks before the actual day just to soak in the festivity, not the wisest thing to do with a new born baby. I was lucky to be slinging the baby instead of pushing him in his stroller. The crowd made me claustrophobic and to be frank, I was more worried of losing my elder son and suffocating my new born baby than to really enjoy the night. When we finally reached the end of the street, I was relieved to see the open sky and to be alive and breathing air. Having made it to and back from the busy streets of Chinatown during this time is like a milestone reached.
And to get into the mood, we went home, rearranged some furniture, took out some old and abandoned Chinese calligraphy and set up this little corner that is brimming with festivity
As a kid, I was brought up to observe the customs and traditions concerning the celebration of this day, a lot of them perhaps superstitious. Still by observing some of these customs, whether superstitious or not, we keep alive a part of us. It is our history and our heritage. It was how we grew up. It keeps us connected to our past. It is part of what makes us unique.
I give scant regard to people who claim that we have no notable history to speak of. Every great civilization started small. Every little town in France is a little different, and they will balk at you if give the slightest hint that you think they are the same. We don’t have to be big, but we can be our own.
During my stay in foreign countries, I have often asked myself what it meant to be a Singaporean. We didn’t really fit into a pure Chinese mold. I don’t speak or write Chinese like the mainlanders neither do I speak English like the Americans or the Brits. I don’t identify with any of them. I feel most at home here in Singapore. The hot and humid weather. My family is here. And we celebrate, in our own little ways, Chinese New Year.
And so we celebrate and connect again, to one another and to our past. From the somewhat meaningless lao yusheng, giving ang paos, to the simple act of wishing each other Happy Chinese New Year, we keep a part of us alive for our next generation and teach them the little little things that we so often take for granted.
Tossing raw fish and giving ang baos is our way of expressing to each other our wishes for the new year, like how the french say,”Bon Sante” and the americans say, “Cheers!”. Paying respect with mandarin oranges may seem dated, but it is that, to show and teach respect. Ask any kid if getting ang baos are fun. Even the non-Chinese love it.
And so, I wish everybody the greatest ever New Year ahead, and don’t sweat the little things. It may be superstitious or meaningless, but have fun, enjoy it anyway!