A Moment of Thought - Chinese New Year 2017

Around this period every year, jovial songs in Mandarin play in shopping malls, supermarkets and retail outlets. This year is, of course, no exception.

This year, I noticed fewer 'traditional' Chinese New Year songs being played. In their place are songs that are wholly unfamiliar or songs that are modern renditions of the 'classics'. It does feel that the introduction of too many new things is tamping the festive mood down a little.

Chinese New Year is a traditional festival. Let's not over-modernise it, lest it lose its charm and original meaning, as so many other festivals have.

That aside, I am looking forward to a fairly relaxed Chinese New Year. There will be a few visits but, generally, nothing too hectic. Just the way I like it. There isn't much point in exhausting yourself during over the next few days, is there? You'd just go back to work in a less-than-positive mood.

I am intending to be mindful of a couple of things over this Chinese New Year:

1) Be more willing to participate

Normally, I prefer to withdraw from most activities during this period, especially when crowds and noise are involved. This time, though, I'll be more purposeful in participating.

2) Be more observant of customs and behaviours

Never having much bothered with traditional customs in past years, I thought that it would be good to observe them a little more starting from this year. As a teacher, it's always good to add a little more material to my repertoire of examples and anecdotes.

All in all, I am thankful for being able to celebrate CNY here in Singapore and for the people with whom I will be celebrating it.

Here's to an un-stressful Chinese New Year and a great 2017 ahead!


Giving Out Oranges for Chinese New Year

My church, Bethesda Cathedral, has an initiative that began last year. A couple of weeks before Chinese New Year, we would go to the blocks in our community and give oranges to the residents there.

Yesterday was my cell group's (we call it an Oikos - the Greek word for 'family' or 'family's household') date for the task.

We covered our block quickly enough to help another group cover theirs and I learned a few things through the process.

1) Many residents aren't at home on Friday evenings and nights

This is likely to be family dinner time, and many families enjoy a night out as the weekend approaches. We even caught a family just in time as they were leaving the house on our distribution round.

2) Some are wary of our intentions

Some residents were wary when we told them that we were giving them oranges as part of our celebration, perhaps rightly so. After all, in this materialistic world, few would ever give without expecting any return. I understand their caution, because I, too, am cautious of such things.

Though we were asked to give flyers of invitation for various events at the church, I didn't use any. I felt that it detracted from the simple act of giving without expecting a return. Others may have a different view on the matter, but I stand by what I believe.

3) We need to learn to speak better Mandarin and Chinese 'dialects' if we are going to do this on a regular basis

Due to the emphasis on English as the language of business and education in Singapore, many of us neglect to study Mandarin well. We are also lacking in proficiency in the various 'dialects' (I place this in inverted commas because they are really separate languages. It's only because our government terms them 'dialects' that we call them as such) such as Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese to properly communicate with residents who cannot speak English.

I'm sure there are other points of learning, but three will suffice for today