Photo credits here
By Ang Jing Han
Chinese New Year. A four-day-long weekend. Angpow money. Yummy snacks. An excuse to get new clothes, dress up. Instagram narcissism (or, in other words, #初一 #ootd). Which of these descriptions truly encapsulate Chinese New Year? I’m not quite sure when I began to associate Chinese New Year with these things, but it seems as though the festivities have taken on a whole new skin when viewed through the lens of social media.
It’s no longer about the relatives that we meet only once a year or the snacks in the red-capped plastic tins. It’s about the cute babies that sit on your lap as trophies and wave fat fists at the camera, or the gymming one has to do after the ‘pigging season’. New year, new clothes… but new me? I’ve never liked lying to myself.
Because to me, Chinese New Year is about the old things, about tradition. I have a love-hate relationship with Chinatown during the festivities, but every year, I go anyway. I go, to soak in the spirit of the festivities and buy goodies, to look at the hideous light statues they put up for that year of the zodiac.There’s always so many people we can barely walk, too many bodies packed into one place till the entire street is a fire hazard. But there’s so much joy and enjoyment in one place, that one can’t help but really feel, ah. Chinese New Year has arrived.
But every year, there are less people to visit. And with all the hype about being the new, we don’t want to think about the old and traditional. Don’t think about the ageing grand-relatives, relegated to wheelchairs and empty gazes, oranges thrust into their hands that they accept by muscle memory, the new year’s wishes that you don’t quite mean.
It comes back to us, in startling clarity, when we realize that this year, they’re missing. They can’t accept our oranges and give us crumpled notes in yellowing red packets anymore.
After all the exhausting visiting, I want to turn the clock back a few years and visit everyone again, ask them about their year, how they’ve managed in life, mean what I say in “Happy New Year”, “Stay Healthy”, “Enjoy a favourable year”.
Happy Chinese New Year, great grandma. I miss you.