It has been 9 years since I travelled alone to Vietnam and China during Chinese New Year, leaving my family behind. It was a therapeutic trip. My thoughts and feelings back then are still fresh in my mind. It’s as if every Chinese New Year is a reminder.
Things are a bit different this year. I wish I could travel (with my two boys) but I’m only into my second week post bunion surgery. New feet, new year. They give me a lot to look forward to and yes, you can wish me happy new year as a new pair of feet that can fit into proper shoes and walk properly would certainly make me very happy. Nevertheless, I may need to wait till after March 2019 before embarking on trips. Some travel, some work overtime to escape from the festivities. There is a trend of shops and services opening on the first two days.
Chinese New Year is a time of reflection for the thinkers like me. Two years ago, I wrote a very heartfelt piece on the concept of reunion during Chinese New Year. When I watched Channel 8 last night and saw footage of foreigners who have settled in, celebrating the festivities with the rest of the Chinese community here, I can’t help feeling a sense of envy, admiration and loss.
Many people find this and the original video funny. That’s probably because many of them find the woman in the car so distant, remote and unbelievable. But does someone like her appear only in the movies? Don’t we know someone like that in our midst, always bullying others with unreasonable demands, fabricated claims and exaggerated suffering on their part?
This woman is very real. Her whole life revolves around 3 things: her self, her self and her self. Yet some of them can live very well in any society because she can pretend to be caring and compassionate until there is no need to for them to show care and compassion. They have no real or lasting friends. Only their parents continue to give in to them and that was what moulded their self-centred, self-absorbed nature in the first place.
Why do people rush to be the first to plant joss sticks at Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple at Waterloo Street? When interviewed, they’ll always say that they pray for their friends, their family, the country … but do you need to jostle with the crowd, putting everyone at risk of a stampede or getting singed by joss sticks? How’s that for “world peace”?
I can proudly say that I have never been a part of this madness which also has nothing to do with the central theme of reunion which takes the “self” out of us. One needs to put in effort to to make it to a reunion. One needs to sacrifice time. One even needs to listen to old grandma’s tales repeated over and over again. For the singles, they even need to answer that painful question. When are you going to take the plunge, place your bet on a lifetime of happiness or misery?
And if putting up with any of those things put you off, then you probably won’t enjoy Chinese New Year. Rather than a celebration, CNY becomes an obstacle that one has to clear. That’s why it’s 过年 – passing the year. The question is, will you run away from it and sacrifice reunion instead?
Have a drink and pass the year.
© Chan Joon Yee