Happy Chinese New Year!
If you have read the previous post written by bear, you would have known that we’ve had a fall out just a few days ago. We kick-started the new year in the most auspicious way possible—Both of us saw red, and my room smelled of gunpowder and tears the night before New Year’s eve, without actual firecrackers involved.
Looking back, I was upset not just because bear sounded hostile towards my parents, but also because I felt that my cultural identity was being slighted when she did not seem to understand why I might want to spend my CNY holidays exclusively with my family year after year.
While I am not really a big fan of the traditional filial piety nonsense, I felt that it should be a matter of course that I would reserve CNY mostly for family reunion (especially since my father came back from China just for this). I knew that CNY meant a lot to my family and I wanted us to spend that few days in peace and harmony even if it was just superficial.
Perhaps, that was what confounded bear. To her, I was knowingly letting my family enslave me. And at that moment, it seemed to me that she was trying to cut off my Chinese roots and burn the bridge that connects me to my family. We were both dramatically wrong.
The few days passed in the blink of an eye. Everything went well, but those few days had been pathetically unproductive.
Abundance seemed to be the theme of our family celebration this year. There was abundant food, abundant free time, I had abundant sleep (finally), and even my ang pow money came in abundance (thanks to my parents and their friends, and bear’s mum).
We also played Texas poker for three days straight, when we were not busy with anything else (such as spring cleaning, cooking, or doing the dishes).
On the fourth day of the CNY holidays, I stopped playing totally, because I found it an utter waste of time.
I could not stop thinking that I would have done so many other better things with that time I squandered playing round after round of poker ceaselessly. And even when I was playing with my family, I did not really feel bonded with them since I was probably paying more attention to the cards and how much I have won or lost.
To my horror, I felt like a fish out of water during the festive holiday that I used to look forward to.
I know that I have said the line “Culture and traditions probably mean nothing to you” to bear, but perhaps, others could also think that I was rude and uncultured for leaving the game table as and when I wanted to.
Reunion is culture; cooking up a feast is culture; snacking on New Year goodies is culture; visiting and being visited is culture, and so is gambling day and night.
I told myself: “Why not just respect the traditions and happily do what everyone is doing? You only get to celebrate CNY once in a year!”
But having to do things against my will simply made me detest CNY even more.
CNY now seems to be this tyrant who dictates: “Thou shalt be happy for it’s my birthday. Thou shalt meet up with your extended families and mingle awkwardly with them. Thou shalt eat like there is no tomorrow. Thou shalt ensure peace and harmony on mine birthday or suffer a whole year of bad luck!”
Under the power of its command, people start doing things that they don’t normally do, all in the name of preserving its dignity.
At this time of the year, distant relatives who usually do not care about your wellbeing and know almost nothing about you will act like they are your most trusted friends or advisors and start digging deeper and deeper into your personal, private life. Because culture allows them to do so at zero cost.
My grandmother, whom I have not chatted with for very, very long (oops my bad too) suddenly requested a video of me playing piano solo. Dad said that this is her way of trying to connect with me, but what she might not know is that I have not practised properly for years.
It is not nice to turn granny down, especially on CNY, but no, you cannot establish a real connection with someone by choosing to see their musical side on a particular date.
Not even if it is in the name of culture.
I personally feel that the whole point of having culture, traditions, and rituals is to promote love, preserve humanity (as well as the arts and humanities) and to make life more enjoyable. But would you still embrace culture when it has already kidnapped you?