The Lunar Spring: An Evolution of my Perception

By Christina Kim - February 26, 2019

The Lunar Spring celebrations have come to an official end a week ago, following a 15-day festivities. The sound of firecrackers, fireworks and the appearances of lion dance troupes have also retreated silently to the background, waiting for their next appearance in a year.
The months of preparations and the hustle bustle dissipate as quickly as they started, and everything is back to normal.

Relieved, sad, forlorn, empty, joy, are all jumbled up in my personal potpourri of the emotions that fill my soul at the end of the festivities. I cannot quite pin it down to a single emotion to describe how I truly feel, because it has always been this way when it comes to the Lunar Spring celebrations, or the Chinese New Year. As far as I can remember, I have always had an ambiguous relationship with the lunar spring festival. I cannot decide if I like or dislike it.

For some weird reason, I am not particularly fond of this festival when I was a little girl. While other kids jump for joy at the thought of the festival, I was, however, rather indifferent toward it. In fact, there are even times when I dread the festivities as well, because, I find it kind of bothersome. Don't get me wrong, there are still specific parts of the celebration I do look forward to, being a kid (and even until today), such as that whiff of crisp new fabric and the sensation of it on the body, the joy on everyone's faces, the vibrant colours of the decorations and of course, receiving gifts of money in the red packets. 
(I am sure the last is every kid's favourite part of the Chinese New Year celebrations)

I do not know how I conceive such perceptions of the Lunar Spring celebrations, for my mum is a fan of the festivities. Maybe burying myself in all my storybooks and novels set in the West over the years created that pull toward festivals such as Christmas and Easter, though their religious weight anchor their importance over influences of creative works. Nonetheless, there was nothing really exciting (for me) when it comes to the ushering of the new spring during my childhood and I think I have various reasons to account for that in my little mind back then.
For one, there is practically nothing that is available nor fresh during the festive period. I get it that everyone is off to celebrate, shops close and there is no access to our favourite daily stuffs. It is not just the food, it is about almost everything in general and despite this being a multicultural country, it is still as though one walked into a dead planet during Chinese New Year. The streets are quiet, except for a spark of firecracker going off once in a while and the loud clanging sounds while a lion dance performs in the background. That desolate atmosphere can be depressing. As for the food, almost everything that is available from the stores or eateries are from months ago. (Sellers start storing their supplies for at least a quarter before the festival and kept them preserved in cold storage since most of the fresh food suppliers will also cease operations to celebrate.) Of course, one can argue that most households would already have food supplies in view of the festive celebrations, but it is still annoying when you have to go out to eat and everything tastes like it is from an icebox, and it is. Thankfully, it is not the case these days, as more and more businesses are open during the festive period.

Next comes the superstitions, the customs and traditions and everything in adherence to the sun, the stars and the moon. My maternal grandmother is especially particular on these little practices because she believes they would ward off bad luck and only court good luck for a brand new start for the year. I can't say I blame her, since she is brought up in that kind of background and was practically surrounded by those beliefs her whole life. She is in fact, the person from whom I learn about these customary beliefs and the do's and don'ts for not just the Chinese New Year, but essentially for all the Chinese cultural traditions in general. It can be daunting and annoying too, when you are not sure if anything you do abides by the astrological rules and will not warrant a "Choi!" (the Chinese slang word for touchwood) and a stern stare from the elders, though it becomes a pretty interesting experience for me as I learnt these ropes and navigated them pretty well at a young age. (I think I can compile a book just writing about all these beliefs :)

However, as interesting as these customs can be, it can be pretty restrictive as well, and to be honest, I find them even ridiculous. Mind you, I only abide by those which are sensible and logical, bad luck or not. They'd better have a rational explanation for their existence for me to at least consider not breaking them, out of courtesy. There are times when I even find them bordering on the breach of human rights as well, when one is left with no choice due to the societal pressure to adhere to it, but that will be another long story to get into.

Anyway, those were my sentiments toward the spring celebrations growing up, though I find myself changing my perceptions along the years too. Yes, my feelings for the Chinese New Year have also slowly evolved. The indifference I have felt have also slowly taken on lighter note, though I cannot say they have fully disappeared. 

The lonely streets, the closed businesses, the stale food may not be very appealing, but they have taken on a new meaning for me. The closure and cessation of operations is no longer annoying for they also mean that everyone is in the festive mood. The mood to take that trip home, even if it means traveling few hundreds or thousands of miles to reunite with one's family to sit down and enjoy a warm meal surrounded by lively chatter and joyous laughter. It could be a trip only taken once in a year for this entrepreneurs, or the long-awaited meal with their loved ones after an entire year of video calls. We are not the only ones who are excited to click on the 'Apply Leave' button in the system and see that application being approved by our bosses or packing our bags with the gifts and new clothes as we look forward to heading home to see our families.
That silence on the streets is symbolic of the untold stories of love, of reunion and of familial ties. They exist, everyone has their own story and loved ones. That silence during the two-week period of Chinese New Year is testimonial of that love, muted but strong in one's heart. All of a sudden, it is no longer a picture of sadness but one that is so emotional that it warms one's heart.

Food that is not so fresh just adds on to that picture of love, but also an extension of that love. It is a reminder of the warmth of the food served at home, prepared with love by our loved ones. The efforts in designing the menu for the celebration, the selection of the ingredients, to the care taken to serve them hot and in a visually appealing manner all speak of the love for each other. Each bite we take as we celebrate is reminiscent of that. Be thankful for the people who take the trouble to go to the markets a few weeks ahead to get hold of these fresh supplies for the meals and getting their hands dirty to prepare the meals, without a word of complaint and instead, with a smile of satisfaction when they see everyone enjoying their cooking. They are the ones who made sure we are well fed during the festivities. Most of all, be thankful that we have food on our tables and that we are blessed with the mood of happiness to be able to enjoy and celebrate the festival.

Everything now takes on a different meaning, a different perspective, even the superstitions and restrictive customary practices. Bothersome as they may be, they are conceived with well-intended purposes. It is all about good luck for the new year, blessings and in short, they are all about Hope. It is that hopeful feeling as one looks forward to a new beginning at the start of the year. Elders who shush us off or glare at us for breaking a rule only mean well, they want us to fare well for the year. It is with good intention, love, and their hope of a good year for us. We ought to be thankful for that. So, the next time, your mother or grandmother screams at you for breaking the vase, say "I love you" because that is what that is on their mind, though unspoken.

I could go on and on for the different meanings the Lunar Spring has now sprung upon me, but they are all about Hope and Love. Many may realise the meanings of the celebration but they are often overlooked or forgotten as they drown in the extravagance of the materialistic stupor that mask our realities. Many have been swept away by the competitiveness of outdoing each other and self-care in ensuring they look their very best during the festival that the true meaning of the festival has already gone under the carpet.
Maybe they will laugh at me, at this post that I share my evolution that they will ask, "Do you only know this now?"

We all definitely know this long ago, but how many truly celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Lunar Spring festival with this in mind, rather than decking their houses and themselves with the best decorations which they can boast about to their friends and families?

Strip away all the colours of the decorative items, the red, the gold, the yellow, the orange and all the festive or auspicious colours, and focus only on the colours of Love and Hope.
You will realise they are not constant, though they are the main elements of the festival, and also in every festival.

Like me, you will then go through an evolution (every year) as you celebrate the festival and you will start to see the Spring festival in a new light.
I hope that it is truly a brand new beginning and a brand new Spring for you every year, just as it is for me :)

*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
Please kindly ask for permission if you need to use any of my images.

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