Christmas V Chinese New Year

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 Andrea Lo 0 Comments


The western world has Christmas, which only lasts for a day, followed by the relatively mediocre New Year's Eve, where everybody just gets drunker than usual — in Chinese culture we get to host entirely separate celebrations in January or February. These special times are also known as Chinese New Year, the most important event in the lunar calendar.

Chinese New Year 2012 happens to fall relatively early, on 23 January. This year, I finally get to spend it at home. Hear that sound just now? That's the sound of me trying not to dribble everywhere from just thinking about the amazing food we'll be having.

Still think Christmas is better? Here is a list of reasons why Chinese New Year thoroughly kicks Christmas's ass.


ROUND 1: OBSERVATION OF TRADITIONS

What is Christmas about? Gifts? Snow? Turkey? People seemed to have forgotten that Christmas is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of baby Jesus. The attendance of midnight mass has steadily decreased over the years, Instead of nativity music, Mariah Carey's voice blasts from every speaker across the Northern Hemisphere. Every. Single. Year.

Legends and tales tell us that Chinese New Year began after some beef with a mythical beast. The beast would come out to play at the same time every year, trashing villages and ravishing livestock, crops and even children on its way. As a way of protecting themselves, people left food at their doorstep, hoping the beast would stop disturbing the peace. The beast was then apparently spotted being freaked out by a child dressed in red; as such, red decorations were then used as a way of frightening it off.

So that story could be complete BS, but we still keep a number of traditions every year, which every self-respecting Chinese person follows religiously — more so than most who celebrate Christmas, which is fast becoming a materialistic holiday all about spending money on top of getting wasted, and less about traditions or indeed religion, which is why the whole holiday came about the first place. Even the closest thing to God on earth, the Pope Benedict XVI, this year condemned the commercialisation of Christmas. Tsk.

My favourite CNY traditions and superstitions as a child: No studying (the word book rhymes with 'losing'); the competition to be the earliest riser to sweep the house clean of imaginary 'dust' on the morning of New Year's (brings luck, and more importantly financial rewards from parents!)

CHRISTMAS - 0
CHINESE NEW YEAR - 1


ROUND 2: GIFTS

On Christmas day, you receive gifts from your loved ones. For the period of Chinese New Year, you get money, bitches! Need I say more?

Most people have been on the receiving end of a terrible gift, or being the giver of one. Either way, it just makes you feel like an asshole. As a result of the exchange of a terrible/useless gift, the item in question ends up in a cupboard until the end of time. Money, on the other hand, is useful to everybody, which is just as well — since just about everyone gets money for Chinese New Year. They are exchanged within family and sometimes friendship circles, and often given as a gesture of goodwill to those in the service industry as well. They come in the form of a red packet, which is consistent with the abundant use of the colour in the New Year period. They are supposed to symbolise luck and of course, affection.

Did I mention that if you are unmarried, you are not obligated to give out red packets? Hell yeah! That's why it was always fun spending Chinese New Years as a child (and even more fun now as a 21-year-old). You are also not supposed to give red packets to people who are older than you, which means it must really suck being my maternal great-grandmother. As the matriarch of the family, she has 10 children and something like 25 grandchildren.

CHRISTMAS - 0
CHINESE NEW YEAR - 1


ROUND 3: FOOD

Who doesn't like Chinese food?! If you don't like Chinese food, you can stop reading now and close this window. Goodbye, troll.

For Christmas, you get pretty much the same deal every year, with some variation on, say, how members of your family prefers cranberry sauce to gravy on your turkey, etc. With Chinese New Year, you get to nibble on every kind of sweet created under the sun. Even if you don't touch them, they're still pretty to look at. Don't even get me started on the festive foods that only come round every Chinese New Year, like the year cake. I'm sad right now because I'm not eating one.

CHRISTMAS - 0
CHINESE NEW YEAR - 1


ROUND 4: FAMILY VALUES

I think I am going to stop being so unfair in my assessment here and let this one be a draw. Family values are tremendously important to not only the Chinese, but also to the western world at this time of the year. After all, 'tis the season of goodwill, when families gather to share great food and gifts.

CHRISTMAS - 1
CHINESE NEW YEAR - 4

Winner: Chinese New Year
I mean, are you really surprised?

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