Year after year, as soon as you come back to reality from that much too blissful Christmas/New Year break, and the whole world is starting (struggling…) to get back into the usual and not-always-pleasant rhythm of life, you notice your Chinese friend busying himself with something else. It seems as though his holiday has outlived yours. Indeed, he behaves like his holiday has yet to arrive (thus explains his exceptional euphoria). He is occupied by an endless shopping list. He decorates his workplace with banners, a creature of some sort and everything red. Soon, perhaps, he even dresses himself in red.
Just when you think he has somehow been living in an alternate universe, he comes up to you with a little red packet and says:
CNY? No, not City of New York. It is, very simply, Chinese New Year.
So that explains it all! It really is in a sense a second holiday after Christmas for every Chinese. To the rest of the world, it might seem counter-intuitive, anachronistic, even oxymoronic to celebrate two new years each year (see?). After all, apart from the out-of-the-world puddings, fabulous celebrations, exotic dances, ridiculously loud firecrackers and an impeccable reason to put off work, there is no real reason to perpetuate the tradition… or is there?
The standard answer: it is part of the heritage and culture of a unique people… etc etc… we all know that very well already, so let’s think of something new.
No escaping your Family and Friends
That can be the reason to hate, but above all the reason to adore, CNY. It is the time for family reunions and visits to missed friends. While we do it out of tradition, it is a duty which is really a blessing. We all know how difficult it can be to get ourselves to execute those reunion plans during the better part of the year – especially when you have that not-so-pleasant aunt and that mildly-nasty cousin (the ‘baddies’). But the baddies should not stop us from seeing the rest of the family, the ‘goodies’, and CNY is the perfect motivation we need. Same goes for friends – ‘sometime’ means ‘never’. Again, CNY manages to bring everyone together. Got to admit it – we all need to be pushed once in a while, and we all feel great afterwards!
Saving the Homesick
For most of us international students, however, the reason to cherish CNY more than ever is the feeling of home it invokes. We do not feel as alien in a foreign land, as we gather with Chinese friends to celebrate just like at home, tasting food that smells like home. We are like pilgrims on an epic journey, and no matter how lofty (and worthy) our objectives are, we are still pilgrims, and pilgrims can never break free from nostalgia. But CNY is here to save the day! The land is different, but CNY is the same. To the world, CNY is different, but to us, CNY makes everywhere the same…
And before you know it, CNY as a festival is over again, although by then, you do not feel like the same international student. You feel different, with a renewed sense of identity and motivation – you are once again that same Chinese you had always been before coming to this continent. For you know your family’s thoughts are with you, as much as your Chinese friends are there beside you. You have never truly departed from your family’s company; rather, you have become truly close to them in your heart, and that is CNY’s gift to the world – that feel-good factor that everyone craves for.
Wishing you all a Prosperous Year of the Dragon!