Home and Family
Almost every culture or race has a festival where family, identity and culture are celebrated. For many Chinese, it will be the Chinese New Year (CNY) festival.
In most years, CNY sits uncomfortably with Lent. Feasting and fasting, noise and silence, gathering and coming away, the contrast cannot be more stark, and the Chinese Christian has to juggle between both. For many, observation of Lent starts later, afforded by a longer 40 day period. Having received the mark of ash, in the next few days he will be enjoying delectable feasts with his family. Hymns will give way to “Gong Xi, Gong Xi Ni…” CNY songs have always helped set the atmosphere through blaring Rediffusions of yesteryears and today, through CNY programmes on flat-screen TVs.
In modern and urbanised Singapore, the concept of celebration as a village and clan is largely lost. Added to that, there is no noisy firing of crackers or fireworks to gather the village. And so, all across the city, in countless little huddles in HDB flats, mostly behind closed doors, the homing magnet gathers ties that bind.
The Reunion Dinner on CNY Eve is the most important gathering for most families. On the table will be dishes which carry the family tradition, may it be Nonya, Hakka or Hokkien. Therefore, home cooking is preferred, if at all possible.
No matter how strained family ties are, families still try to gather, and there is an unspoken forgiveness or a staying of grievances. As conversations flow, we remember that family is a given and a gift. Whatever or whoever, we ought to receive it with gratitude. Going beyond a truce, some mending may actually happen.
For a few days, work is set aside as the home becomes center stage. It has been a while since one stood at the balcony and looked at his neighbourhood. Or sat long enough on the sofa to be reminded of the special role of the living room in gathering the family. The ambitious readjust their perspective. After all, the home is a graveyard of ambition. As a proud father watches his children, the unquenchable desire for public honour recedes into the background. Problems at work are temporarily forgotten.
The second day will be about visiting relatives, and on the third day, close friends. For those who come from broken families, the reunion night can cruelly open some old wounds. I don’t think those wounds can be healed completely on this side of life. But CNY celebration stretches long enough to remind one that close and faithful friends are still some of the good gifts of life.
Indeed, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” James 1:17
As Christians, we can be grateful for the many gifts He has bestowed on us through our culture, family and friends. And most of all, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, who has called us into His family.