and I'm back to work!
I have gotten so many puzzled looks and questions at work today- "Have you changed your religion?", "You don't celebrate Chinese New Year?", "Why aren't you on leave?" and etc. I find it a little disturbing that people seem to generalize when certain races should/shouldn't have to work.
When I was younger, I never did (or bothered) to question the reason why the Chinese celebrated this holiday- I was more interested in meeting up with my cousins at my Grandma's old papan (wooden) house, playing with fireworks, eating mandarins, meat floss, prawn crackers, and how could I forget the angpow collecting. I also remember walking around the house in my new shoes for 'good luck' on the first day, and also no bottles in the house were to be left unfilled. There is also this one tradition which goes somewhat like- you aren't allowed to sweep/clean for the first few days of CNY? I don't know who came up with this one but.. lazy much?
As I grow older, I've come to stop practicing whatever 'traditions' I am uncomfortable with- no more stomping around the house in new shoes, I empty the trashcan whenever it's full and I will mop the floor if it gets dirty. There are many, many beliefs associated with the CNY celebrations which most modern Chinese have left out- so why can't I do the same and drop the ones which I find holds no significance?
Another tradition which most Chinese practice is that all family members (and I mean all as in Uncles, Aunties, and etc) have to be together for the 8/9/10 course Reunion Dinner on the eve of CNY even if it means risking one's life to rush home. If you don't, you are considered an unfilial family member. Statistics show that road accidents have a sharp increase during the few days before CNY, which doesn't surprise me- considering how people would speed home to be in time for the RD, especially if they live inter-state. I guess I am lucky that I don't have elders who pressure my family into such practices. If we happen to be in Ipoh, we'll celebrate it with my 2nd aunt and her family. If we're in Kuantan, we'll celebrate with my 1st, 3rd, and 5th aunts' families.
(Note: Just yesterday I was in Kuantan for a day trip and when we returned to KL, we had Maccas for dinner because most Chinese restaurants would be closed anyway. Before anyone goes "WTH?! Maccas for dinner?! On the first day of CNY?!", whoever said you couldn't? There was a really old granny there too, with her sons/daughters/in-laws, grandchildren and possibly even great grandchildren. And they were having Maccas for dinner. If a granny that old has no objections, I don't have any either :D)
After all that talk about not following traditions, my family and I still do visit the temple to pay respects to my maternal grandparents but we do it because we want to, not have to. It is not a MUST DO for us on the first day of CNY and my grandparents sure aren't going to be tossing in their graves (urns) if we don't visit the temple.
The way I see it, most people are just using this celebration for a reason to get together, clean the house, visit relatives and indulge in cookies, mandarins and the likes. Do we really need to wait a whole year just to do this? Just a thought.
That said, have a Happy Chinese New Year! Drive safe, and drink responsibly if you are going to.
(P/s: Do you know how the CNY celebrations originated?)