Here in Singapore, we celebrate 2 New Year(s) almost back to back. That’s because 80% of our population is of Chinese descent, so Lunar New Year - which usually takes place between end January and early February, depending on the Lunar calendar, is celebrated arguably more enthusiastically than Christmas & New Year’s Day.
We spring clean our homes, dress ourselves and our children in new clothes, so that by and large, we make ourselves “presentable” during the festive season.
Traditionally, during Lunar New Year, we have reunion dinners with families, we visit relatives over the “official” 15 days of Lunar New Year, we wear new clothes, we give (and receive) Ang Pows – which are auspicious gifts of money placed in red packets given by married couples to kids, unmarried siblings, relatives and friends. Some of us also give red packets to our parents and grandparents as a token of our appreciation for their love and care. We bring and exchange mandarin oranges (which are symbols of prosperity) when we visit our relatives. We bake/buy cookies to entertain friends and families when they visit us. Therein lies my first issue of 2017.
How much cleaning is too much? How much tidying is too much? If I’m so busy doing the cleaning, marketing and the baking until the joy of anticipating a wonderful family dinner is overtaken by overwhelm and tiredness, I’ve crossed my personal limits. By the time the grouchy me surfaces and starts to snap at innocent bystanders, I know I have to cut back on my cookie baking agendas.
This year, one of my first dilemmas for 2017 is – whether I’m alright being invisible? Am I contented working behind the scene, doing all the preparations for Lunar New Year festivities, so that everybody has a good time? I briefly wondered if I was ok about my efforts towards our preparations, not being acknowledged by my own and whether I will feel taken for granted?
The perfectionist in me had trouble letting go of my personal standards. For example, in previous years, I expect the floors to be vacuumed, mopped and cleaned in a certain way according to my timeline. The leather sofas and dining tables have to be wiped and polished my way. My children had to pick clothes that meet my style expectations. I realize I leave very little room for others to shine differently from me and it was frustrating us all!
So this year, I came to a new Lunar New Year conclusion. If we’re not happy to do the cleaning, cooking and baking as a family, we’re not doing it. I’m not going to bake and giveaway bitter cookies to anyone. We can always buy ready-made ones! I’m not going to cook reunion dinners that make my whole family miserable because I’ve overextended myself. We agreed to simplify our reunion dinner menu to something we can comfortably manage, so that everybody (including myself) can enjoy.
Let’s face it. At the end of life, what really matters is not what we bought, what we got; but what we shared; not our competence and our standards but our love and our values.
This Lunar New Year, I want to do stuff that matters to my family joyfully. I want to be authentic and live a life I’m proud of, so that everybody in my family can really enjoy a happy New Year together.