Friday, 20 February 2015

Spring Festival Gala 2015: the day we become a single Malaysian race, traditions light up...




The day we become a single Malaysian race

I have celebrated Chinese New Year my entire life. And being a Malay Muslim and living in Malaysia, I feel myself very unique and special for doing so.

It is not hard to understand why. I have Chinese and Malay blood in me. My grandmother on my mother's side is Chinese and the ethnic influence is very strong.

My brothers and I all speak Cantonese (however poor our pronunciation is) and when we speak English, we are very easily mistaken for being Chinese because of our accent.

When I was in primary school, some Malay classmates would tease me and say that I am committing a sin by celebrating Chinese New Year and collecting ang pows.

At first I was confused, but very quickly I realised that they were all just stupid and did not know what they were talking about. I was proud of that.

Of course, our family celebrated Hari Raya too and so did all our Chinese relatives who would gather at our house every single year without even needing an invitation.

And as how life naturally is, my Chinese grandmother eventually died and this year is the second Chinese New Year without her being with us.

So now, during Chinese New Year's eve, we joke that we are really just a bunch of Malays flipping salmon in plum sauce with chopsticks and gulping down “chai choy” without any real reason to do so!

The pure Chinese immediate family member is gone. But it is alright. We have her blood running in our veins. And we still celebrate the first and second day with the entire Ang clan.

And what makes me even more proud is the fact that our huge clan celebrates every single main Malaysian festival because we are marrying all kinds of people.

We have Malays, Chinese, Indians, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Christians and more in our family. And the circle seems to just get bigger and bigger.

The tradition that we have celebrating our melting pot of cultures and religions will hopefully never die and continue through the generations.

Initially, I was proud that I was so unique compared with all my other friends and acquaintances as I celebrated various festivals. But I feel differently now.

I want to feel even more proud once every single person in Malaysia celebrates every single festival in the country because we have become, and identify as, a single Malaysian race.

Al-Fatihah to my dear grandmother Ang Swee Poh (we visit her grave during Hari Raya and Chinese New Year) and happy Chinese New Year to all Malaysians. Kong Hei Fatt Choy! – February 20, 2015.

Source: The Malaysian Insider.
By Zan Azlee, a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com


Traditions light up Lunar New Year

A resident show the dumplings his family make in Harbin, capital of China's Northeast Heilongjiang province, Feb 18, 2015. [Photo/IC]

Spring Festival is a time to observe old traditions and celebrate China's cultural inheritance.

Food is an important part of New Year celebration. In northern China, dumplings are indispensable on New Year's eve and the first meal of the New Year.

Wang Yuzhe, of Caoxian County of Shandong Province, got up early on Thursday morning, swept the courtyard floor to clear up firecracker residue and woke the whole family to prepare for the New Year breakfast together -- dumplings.

While wrapping up a coin into a dumpling, Wang said that the person who finds this dumpling will make big money in the coming year.

This associating between dumplings and fortune is said based on the supposed resemblance to "yuan bao" a boat-shaped gold ingot used as currency in ancient times.

In southern China, most people prefer rice to wheat, so families eat "tang yuan", balls of glutinous rice. On Thursday morning, Zhang Menghui in Hangzhou will put on new clothes and sit down to enjoy tang yuan with her family,

"Whenever I return home for New Year, we eat sweet tang yuan together," she said. Zhang works in Hong Kong and returns to home twice a year. "For the festivals when I am in Hong Kong, I eat tang yuan with friends to express my longing for home."

In Beijing, temple fairs and crowded Spring Festival gatherings featuring acrobats shows, song and dance performances and stalls selling snacks and souvenirs are the order of the day.

In Ditan Park, the Temple of Earth in the northeast of Beijing, stalls selling traditional handicrafts attract flocks of sightseers.

Xiao Jing brought his hand-made "hairy monkeys" -- tiny humanoid figures made from furry magnolia buds and sloughed cicada shells.The monkeys are set in old-fashioned Beijing street scenes, drinking big bowls of tea and eating sugarcoated haws.

"I inherited the skill from my grandfather. Although this is an ancient craft, it is still appealing today. The scenes are close to life and can still touch people's hearts," he said.

In Tibet, Lunar New Year is doubly joyful this year as it coincides with the Tibetan year of the Wooden Ram.

At 8 am, the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa is surrounded by people praying. La Tso left home for the temple at 5 am with her mother. "I am here praying for good health and peace for the family," she said.

In Qamdo, the lunch on the New Year's day is a big family gathering. Yak meat is de rigueur, and people also eat rice cooked with ginseng fruits which symbolize longevity.

In Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, despite a temperature of minus 12 degrees centigrade, the city streets, decorated with red lanterns, are filled with festivities.

For Li Jianjun, 68, the best part for this Spring Festival is that his son has come back home from Shanghai with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Li and his wife spent a whole week preparing the New Year dinner. "We stay at home on the first day of new year according to tradition. We see our in-laws tomorrow and visit other relatives the day after tomorrow," he said.

Li Xinyong, vice president of National Folk Association of China, said, the Spring Festival should not be a carnival, it should be a celebration of folk traditions.

Besides inheriting customs, Chinese people should foster a deeper understanding of their cultural identity, he suggested. - China Daily, Asia News Network


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