In a few days, we will be celebrating the Lunar New Year, the most auspicious date on the Chinese calendar. Like most Chinese festivals, the Lunar New Year carries with it, its own customs, traditions and superstitions. Many of the observances relate to material prosperity. Over the years, this important festive occasion has become more secular with indulgences such as drunken revelry and gambling.
In the light of the superstitions, myths and traditions surrounding the New Year, how should we, as Chinese Christians, participate in its celebrations? How do we uphold our cultural heritage without compromising our faith or marring our Christian testimony?
o Reunion Dinner
The reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve is a good tradition for Christians to observe. In busy Singapore where we hardly have time to dine together as a family, this “compulsory” annual gathering provides a wonderful opportunity to renew ties with loved ones. Traditionally, it is also an opportunity to put away our differences and seek reconciliation. This is in line with God’s Word which exhorts us to condescend and to forgive others: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3: 12-13). Let us therefore take time not only to relate with our family members but also to be reconciled to those whom we have hurt or who have hurt us.
o Customs and Rites
It is important that we understand the significance of a particular custom or rite. Check whether it is a religious observance or a cultural practice. If it contradicts Scriptural teachings, we should avoid it. But where it encourages family bonding and filial piety, we can be a part of it, as long as we do not compromise our faith. While we should not adhere blindly to traditions, we must also not totally reject our cultural heritage. However, we should not participate in drinking, gambling or other forms of worldly entertainment: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10: 31).
Visiting our elders – parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties – is another meaningful practice as it helps to maintain family ties. The Bible exhorts us to honour the elderly: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19: 32). Let us use this occasion to strengthen our bond with our elders.
For most of us, visiting our relatives is a once-a-year affair – only during the Lunar New Year. Let us make the most of our visit with them. Some of these elderly kin are lonely; they are only too happy to have someone to chat with. Give them a listening ear. Enquire after their health, their children and grandchildren as these are probably their favourite topics. We never know how the Lord can use us to minister to them especially when they are non-believers.
When visiting our relatives, let us make a conscious effort to set aside our handphones and digital devices which can often be a distraction. By busying ourselves with our handphones, we are implying that we are not interested in relating to our hosts. This can mar our testimony and defeat the purpose of our visit.
We can use the opportunities during this festive season to speak of our Lord. Take advantage of the prevailing cordial, happy spirit to share our faith. It is also an appropriate time to make use of the red New Year tracts with auspicious words like “Blessedness” and “A Blessed and Happy New Year”. Who knows – the tract we leave behind might be used of the Lord to win some soul to Him.
While much of the Lunar New Year celebrations and well-wishes centre on wealth and prosperity, we, as God’s children, must keep our eyes focused on the Lord and His spiritual blessings. “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life” (Prov. 22: 4). The riches that the world seeks after will fade away, but he that fears the Lord will be rewarded with riches, honour and eternal life.
As Chinese Christians, let us treasure our ethnic identity and cultural heritage. Let us celebrate the New Year with loved ones in a meaningful and God-honouring way. May the Lunar New Year be a joyous season of family bonding and goodwill.
Wishing all a Blessed and Meaningful Lunar New Year!