As we visit family, friends, and loved ones this Chinese News Year we get blessed with the opportunity to strengthen bonds, catch up on gossip, and celebrate the new year's cheer together. That is until we realise that such gatherings can be quite stressful, for various reasons.
For some, the reunion dinner can be a source of great anxiety. Squabbles, strife, and all sorts of mishaps can arise at a single mention of an unwelcome point of discussion or what seems impossible to have today, a personal opinion.
With the new decade well on its way, let us chase out the old bad luck and rid ourselves of these five family flubs this festive season.
We aren’t referring to the casual “Hey, how have you been?” or “How is work coming along” type questions. Catching up on each other's successes or even failures is a great conversation starter. Things may be stretched uncomfortably, however, when more intimate or potentially sensitive personal details are requested from the curious grandpa or the talkative aunty.
Examples of such proding include:
“Hey you have gained so much weight lah, how much have you been eating?”
“Why haven’t you replied to the news I send on whatsapp? So busy ah?”
Or who could forget the classic
“Eh, you got a boyfriend or girlfriend ah?”
Private matters such as these are to be handled with care and consideration for the other person's feelings. Also, understanding how backhanded compliments or harmful suggestions can be offensive is key to being kinder, minding other people's privacy and valuing our own.
2. Outdated Ethics
As our older relatives may have come from a different generation, some of their views, opinions and mannerisms may not be quite so acceptable in this day and age. We all have an uncle/aunty who brings up local politics on the dinner table more than he should. Or that one relative who still holds outdated stereotypes about race or religion. It is important that we acknowledge the generation gap and maybe steer the conversation in another direction.
3. Attention Magnets
It can be frustrating when the long awaited cousin chat is postponed thanks to Aunty Lee’s touching story about her best friend's son’s uncle’s in-laws’ adopted roommate. But the reason why our old folks demand our attention and time could be because they long for company and enjoy socialising but don't get to do so as often anymore. Even more now, with the pandemic.
Think of the few times you do return to your hometown. The joy of company may be constant for us when going back but we don't think of the buffer times in between. When we are back in school or work constantly moving and running, back at Pa’s house it is still and frankly empty.
So, be patient and think of it as them making full use of this social gathering instead of feeling like Aunty Lee’s story would be more appreciated when told to the forgetful neighbour.
4. Obsessed with fortune
It is no secret that attracting fortune is an integral piece of Chinese New Year tradition, second only to family. It is wrapped around gifts of cash, pasted on the walls, and it's even part of the wishes uttered when we greet each other. In conversation work is brought up, business success, wages, bonuses. Wishing for good fortune is part of Chinese New Year celebrations.
Have you heard questions like this before:
“You need to find a better job, lah, your younger brother makes more money in accounting.”
“Maybe you should talk to your cousin to get better stocks.”
"You got NFT, ah?"
Money is important, but not more than the personal value you bring to your family. No matter if one is a multimillionaire or a McDonalds trainee, in a family gathering everyone should be treated equally. Because no matter how rich or poor you are, everyone is equally worthy.
5. Impatience and Intolerance
One unfortunate symptom of growing older is the toll it takes on the body physically but more so mentally. Patience sometimes does not grow with age, only the thinness of tempers. Pride and prejudice will be two things we will deal with our entire lives. Whether we allow others' lack of patience to rub off our own is up to us. For some families conversations can go south with one small step, in such situations remember to be patient. Be the example of what tolerance looks like by being tolerant.Bonus: Relationship Status
This topic could bear an entire article on its own but relationships are the obsession of our grandmas and aunties. Perhaps it is the longing for a hot young romance or perhaps it's the joy of the news that they will be future grandparents and the chance to hold a baby in their arms again. Or perhaps they are waiting for the return of their investment of over 20 years (YOU) paid in cash wrapped in ang pow packets. Sometimes the simple reality is enough to quiet down their expectations. The truth that modern dating is impossible. Happy New Year, everyone and have a happy celebration with family!