The sweltering heat here signifies the beginning of Chinese New Year and spring elsewhere in the world.
This is the Year of the Rat and the start of a new 12-year cycle according to the Chinese zodiac.
As the Chinese believe that good things come in pairs, I sense that the year 2020 (which doubles the numerical “20”) is going to be a terrific year.
Today is the first day of Chinese New Year and usually, it is spent with families and close relatives.
As I was penning this article for my last working day of the month, I started to ponder the meaning of Chinese New Year for millennials like me.
The Chinese character ju means a great deal to me during this season.
It means “to gather” or “togetherness” and is often seen in Chinese New Year couplets or engraved on chopsticks and other cutlery.
That is because being Malaysian, we always gather for food and it is also the time for us to be close to family and friends.
I always look forward to the festival and the reunion dinner is a ritual of utmost importance to me.
For individuals who come to the city to work, oftentimes we are bogged down by work commitments as well as distracted by the many things the city offers to the extent that we forget to go home to our parents.
But we know these are just excuses and we can and should make time for them.
Countless touching Chinese New Year advertisements have stressed on the importance of togetherness and if you are someone who has not returned home for a while, try to make it this year for a change.
I had the pleasure of interviewing some families who travel during Chinese New Year and all of them have one thing in common: making the effort to spend time together as a family no matter where they are.
After all, it is efforts such as these that keep families together.
People may lament that the festive mood for Chinese New Year diminishes each passing year but I learned from one of my interviewees that the mood and traditions can be created within the family.
“Especially as a parent now, it is important to create a festive vibe for the children.
“It not only brings laughter to the family but also teaches our children the importance of our roots and culture.
“It also means passing these valuable lessons to them, so that they can treasure our identity and traditions when they grew up, ” said one of the interviewees.
This is so true.
From a wider perspective, togetherness can also be applied to the entire country.
Malaysia is a melting pot of races and religions and we have lived harmoniously, but there are some individuals who challenge this unity.
For instance, recent reports about Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra) vice-president and lawyer Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz demanding that SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1 remove its Chinese New Year decorations, which the party claimed was unconstitutional, had caused a stir among the public.
His attempt was evidence of his intolerance towards other festivals which are part and parcel of the Malaysian identity.
Students learn about other cultures, traditions and festivals through these little activities prepared by the schools but his “protest” hampered those efforts.
The country consists of people from diverse backgrounds and for every auspicious occasion, we open our doors to fellow Malaysians of different races.
Since today is the first day of Chinese New Year, I shall put aside such negative individuals and thoughts.
Let us enjoy the festivities and the long weekend while spending precious time with our loved ones.
Wishing all of you Gong Xi Fa Cai.
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