When it was the Raya holidays, The Star carried an article where someone wrote about how differently is Raya celebrated now, compared to when he was younger.
Yesterday, I was eight. Back then, at this time, I wouldn’t be indoors writing this. I’d be out there on my grandparents’ lawn, running around with my cousins in the bright afternoon sunshine in Kampung Laut, Kelantan.
Today, I’m 27. It’s 9.40am on the second day of Syawal and I’m parked in front of the computer. Trying to pin down the magic of Raya; the youthful exuberance that has lost its energy; the excitement I may have left behind, together with the songkok I blew up in 1991.
Yesterday, Raya was the most eagerly awaited time of the year. Even before Ramadan, I’d ask my parents if we’re going back to Kelantan (my father’s side) or staying back in Kuala Lumpur for Raya (in Kampung Pandan, my mother’s side).
Travelling to the East Coast meant that I would have to brush up on my Kelantanese, or endure the taunting of my cousins, who would laugh mercilessly whenever I fumbled on the dialect. As a kid, the approval of cousins your age meant the world.
Today, the most eagerly awaited time of the year is the English Premier League. Raya is just a few days’ leave from work for me to regain the weight lost during the fasting month. So that I can fit back into pants that are getting loose, and not have to buy new ones.
When I read that article, I thought, 'how true!' The article definitely resonated with me, probably because I have realised that this had been happening for several years, and I'm sure everyone has, too.
Of course, in my case it would not be Raya; instead it would be Chinese New Year, or CNY for short.
Celebrations and festivities are definitely a way in which we can see the changes in our lives; it happens only once every year, so slowly, we see how we grow up, and how the significance of the celebration changes.
Back then, Chinese New Year was about going back to my parents' hometowns, it was about getting more ang pow money than my sister, and it was about the entire festivity. It was about being away from school and the routines that I'm used to, it was about escaping all that and going away and having a good time without having to worry about schoolwork.
Now, Chinese New Year is about so much more, and so much less. The joy of receiving ang pows have gotten stale over the years. Yes, the money's good, but sometimes it just doesn't seem to important anymore. For the past few years when all the noise from the chatter got too much for me to bear (trust me, my extended family's loud- on my father's side, that is) I would simply head into the room, close the door and read a book or even take a nap.
Chinese New Year lost its charm on me for several years, when I would be the only teen in the household. It was lonely, but of course, only in the sense that there were nobody my age- I could still play with my younger cousins, or watch TV, but it just wasn't the same anymore, especially after my grandmother passed away. Chinese New Year became so much more simpler, when I had always enjoyed the traditions that seemed insignificant at first.
Now that I'm based overseas (sort of), Chinese New Year has once again, changed for me. Now, it is where I can go back to where I came from, to where I can see my family members, and most of all, to forget about the Australian culture for awhile. For that brief moment, I am back to my roots, my beginnings, where I belong.
Chinese New Year is where I enjoy two very important aspects of Malaysian culture- good food, and family. This is the time when I get to lay down the technologies (not my choosing, but still liberating) and simply... be at the present.
I enjoy having reunion dinners, where I get to be in the company of family whom I don't get to see often, surrounded by good food. You can even say that although I've grown, and perceive Chinese New Year in different ways than what I used to see it as, it is still very simple- it's a time to relax, to enjoy my time, to be with family, to eat good food.
Many years ago I even took the effort to dress up during Chinese New Year, including donning the traditional Chinese costume once. But as we've rarely go out visiting (my grandfather's the oldest, so according to Chinese custom everyone else would have to visit him, not the other way round), so these days I just put on a decent looking pair of shorts and a T-shirt.
I guess it is an unfortunate rite of passage that I find different meanings for Chinese New Year as I grow, physically as well as mentally. But it doesn't mean that CNY is not as fun; it still is, I'm sure of it. All it takes is to accept and go along with it.
Happy Chinese New Year!
Note: I know it's a day early, but I have limited Internet so I had saved this post earlier (it was actually written last year, if you remember me writing about not wanting to post an entry on CNY yet), so this is what I've written earlier.