No harm in old traditions

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The reunion dinner and old customs appear to have lost their significance

 IT'S the time of year when the sound of clashing cymbals fill the air and the colour red is ubiquitous.   Today, the Year of the Snake slithers forth to bring a close to the Year of the Dragon.    Feng shui predictions continue to be followed keenly every time a new year unfolds. Feng shui grandmasters are no longer wizened old sages but dapper young men in custom-made suits  but the practice of seeking their advice and forecasts have endured through the centuries.

Not so for many other customs and practices among the Chinese during this festive period. Even Chinese New Year greetings have changed. It used to be a resounding and joyous "Happy Chinese New Year", "Gong Xi Fa Cai", or "Xin Nian Kuai Le", but increasingly these days, it's been reduced to an unseemly "HCNY". This is especially prevalent in social media networks.

What has also changed is festive attire. The first day of Chinese New Year will see celebrants dressed in all colours, even inauspicious black. Just several generations ago, someone in that colour, which is associated with mourning, would be ostracised for bringing bad tidings to the family and disrepute to ancestors.

Refraining from sweeping on the first day of Chinese New Year was religiously adhered to in the past. Not any more. Unpleasant odours, dust mites and bacteria are more feared these days than the wrath of the household matriarch.

Chinese traditional clothes such as cheongsam, samfoo, and changshan (the cheongsam equivalent for men) are hardly, if ever, worn during the festive period.

The reunion dinner, too, appears to have lost its significance. Traditionally, on New Year's Eve, the whole family would gather for a feast. What is served during this important dinner should be carefully chosen for their auspicious meaning. But now, most no longer see it this way. There may not be any favourable meanings attached to pizza, fried chicken and nasi goreng USA but the younger set consider them expedient. Many people are not even around during the holidays, preferring instead to catch sight of the aurora borealis in northern Norway rather than their extended family members back home.

All these developments are unfortunate. For what are we without our traditions? Thus, we should do what we can to safeguard the practices of our forefathers --wear blazing, prosperous red to harness beneficial chi; don't sweep the floor; and watch a Stephen Chow movie on the first day of the new year. Gong Xi Fa Cai.


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