A long time ago, I happened to spend Chinese New Year abroad in Australia. To commemorate the day, I invited friends over, some who were of the culture and others who had European backgrounds in their blood. The foreigners came bearing streamers, party hats, and champagne party poppers not understanding the significance of the day and only understanding the common meaning of 'new year' celebration. After guffaws, I explained, this isn't quite that kind of party. This is simply a get together to be together, in the company of loved ones, to which they gave confused nods to and continued with the merry-making, undoubtedly a little lost amidst the revelry.
What I should have attempted as an explanation was this -- Chinese New Year is Christmas, Thanksgiving and your birthday rolled together in a 15-day extravaganza. It's my favourite celebration of all time, and I'd even go so far to say that it outstrips my actual day of birth in spectacle, and trust, I've been blessed with plenty of good memories there.
If you're like me and live on a constant time deficit, family tends to be put on the backburner. Not so much the nuclear, since constant exposure ensure that your passing ships will cross paths on shared territory; but the extended ragtag motley crew of assorteds that share some semblance of blood, whether literal or figurative, will eventually get the shaft. Which is why the arrival of a new year in the lunar calendar holds such weight because it's a reminder to refresh those familial bonds and start taking stock of all the things you are blessed with in this life.
For the food you'll overeat at the reunion dinner. Or the scandalous gossip that will find new ground in curious ears. Whether the little fried Chinese New Year delectables that will prove such exquisite torture to a burgeoning waistline, or the welcoming arms that greet you from faraway loved ones at their door -- whatever reasons you may have for thinking this day overrated, are probably the exact same things you should be giving thanks for.
This year, my family bore witness to my granddad taking his first steps without his cane after 6 months of rehabilitation from a nasty bone fracture. We rallied around him - sons, daughters, in-laws, cousins and siblings - united in that moment, not in blood or marriage, but in sheer joy; with raucous cheers and hopes in our heart, as we watched the well-loved patriarch of the family take cautious but firm steps, a joyous smile adding new life to a weary wrinkled face.
And that is what Chinese New Year is really about. It's about family. The people you love, and those you love to hate, but the ones you call family undoubtedly. May you be in the presence of those who give and share in joy unselfishly.
Can I get a hollalujah?