Friday, January 30, 2009

Thoughts on Chinese New Year

While I used to enjoy CNY very much as a kid, CNY has now devolved to become my least favorite holiday.

This has to do with a number of reasons. For one thing, my fondest memories of CNY have to do with playing with my cousins in my grandmother's flat in the old (since torn down) Tiong Bahru HDB estate. I remember lots of open spaces, blocks of flats situated atop a hill, and flights of staircases at the ends and middles of the blocks where my cousins would chase after each other up and down the block in games of tag ("catching" in local parlance).

We also had Hongbao money to spend on sparklers and those little exploding pellets that would crackle and pop on impact when thrown on the ground.

Now these things about the holiday no longer appeal, including the Hongbao. Instead, CNY has become a holiday of mainly obligations: either visiting relatives or receiving guests. I do enjoy spending time with my immediate family, but visiting relatives that I hardly see during the year and have very little in common with doesn't stand very high on my list of priorities. Fortunately, my parents don't pressure me on this point, so I pretty much can decline to do the visiting bit. I do have to help entertain guests though.

The other annoying thing about CNY is that all shops and most restaurants pretty much shut down over the holiday, so there's very little to do apart from the traditional activity of visiting relatives.

Instead, if there is one traditional festival that is my favorite holiday, it would be the Mid-Autumn Festival, which unfortunately, isn't a public holiday at all in Singapore, unlike say in Hong Kong and China.

Mid-Autumn Festival is simply brilliant. Because of the significance of the moon, it lends itself very naturally to events held at night (zhong1 qiu1 wan3 hui4). And on a night with a full moon, there's something very romantic associated with these events. Not romantic in the BGR sense, but as in the sensual and the sentimental.

As a festival, it's also immensely kid-friendly, with the lanterns and sparklers for the young (and not so young). For the adults, there's mooncake, tea and the oh-so-genteel custom of chatting by moon and starlight and the poetic contemplation of the moon (not that most of us do that, but the idea is nice). It also helps that Mid-Autumn festival is more than just about having fun, but has complex meaning on both literal and metaphorical levels: the folklore of Chang'Er juxtaposed with the traditional importance of timing the harvest near the Autumn Equinox. 

Finally, apart of being a festival with none of the compulsory obligations of CNY, Mid-Autumn Festival doesn't coincide with a near-total shutdown in the economy. I like my holidays when shops, restaurants, cafes and attractions are all still open and services are available. That is probably the best part about Mid-Autumn Festival.

1 comment:

Jennie said...

hey, I remember having moon cake with you guys in freshman year in that little pagoda near Bloomberg. Were you there? Oh how time has passed.