Sunday, 17 February 2013

Breaking loose with tradition

To tell the truth, I don't really fancy the Chinese New Year. Not only now, but ever since I was young, I dread the arrival of CNY. Every CNY, I wished I was on vacation somewhere.

I understand that we need to preserve the Chinese tradition and culture and all that jazz, but apart from indulging in goodies, I don't see why we only need to meet up during CNY to catch up when we can do it anytime the rest of the year (when things are less expensive :P ). And I'm referring to those relatives and friends whom we would love to meet and chit chat with. For others whom we are not so close to, what is the point of meeting up only once a year to exchange niceties just out of kinship obligations? I bolt having not-so-close relatives ask about my personal relationships and status, when my own parents don't even ask. It's really none of their concern, although they will still continue to ask whether I am 20, 30, 50 or 88 , just because they need a conversation topic. 

Since I was a kid, the first day of the CNY would be spent staying at home, because my parents' siblings would visit and there would be loads of eating and entertainment. We do not just serve CNY snacks, but my mom feels there's a need to prepare lunch and dinner for them as well. As she is getting on with age, I have to help her prepare the food, sometimes cook and serve guests and then I would be the one washing up the dishes. This year it seemed like I was washing dishes continuously from 11am till 8pm as different groups of guests arrived at different timings. It was as if we were serving 8-course dishes (plus truckloads of cutleries, haha). So what happened to chit-chatting and catching up? On the first day of CNY, I fell asleep at about 9pm only to wake up at midnight to wash up before going to bed officially. Phew.

Usually on the second day of CNY we would be out visiting. Since young, my sis and I would dread visiting some relatives whom we were not close to. We only wanted to visit and laze in Grandma's house. We always debated and bargained if we could be excused from other houses but to no avail. The awkwardness. I'm sure the children of the relatives felt the same way too when they had to visit us out of courtesy and obligation. I just want to stay with Grandma, eating pineapple tarts, bak kwa and drinking 'pok chwee' (soft drinks, mainly Kickapoo and Fanta Orange). 

Last year, I skipped the usual routine of CNY because I was away volunteering at the hectic 2-week event when the Jade Buddha was in town. It was also a meaningful way to spend the CNY plus accumulating loads of merits and I managed to escape from my worldly 'traditional duties'!

This year, I was happy that I had spent my second day of CNY differently. As the second day of CNY happened to be the first day of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, I had the opportunity to lunch with my dearest guru, who is in town, and monks and friends. That was a nice change from previous years. I visited my Grandma afterwards and even had time to bring her out for makan. We had Korean food; grilled mackerel, ginseng chicken soup and rice wrap. And I always look forward to seeing my dearest niece and nephew and catching up with family and long-time friends. I also had some time to myself, doing what I like, rest and relax, writing, taking pictures, finding close friends. I was relieved to get some 'me time' because since last November until now I had been really busy with work and Dharma activities. 

Nowadays I have decided to break loose with tradition and routine, although not completely. Usually the period before every CNY, I would be rushing about spring-cleaning, decorating my house, buying CNY goodies, reading up on the year's Fengshui and what items to install, buying new clothes etc... everything must be new, prim and proper. This year I couldn't be bothered. I didn't have time to shop... I only bought a packet of Bak Kwa (BBQ sweet meat) from Kuala Lumpur. I didn't have time to clean up or decorate the house until the night before. I didn't purposely shop for new clothes. I didn't read up on Fengshui stuff anymore. All because I was busy with more important matters.

As I get older, I'm more concerned if my time is spent meaningfully, doing what I like and being with who I like. Quality time is more important. I choose to be more genuine with my feelings. Just because life is short.

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