Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcoming The Tiger

I have a healthy respect for the tiger. The tiger is the third animal in the Chinese zodiac. Those born in the year of the tiger are supposed to be courageous and powerful, yet sympathetic and reflective. Go figure.

To me, this big cat epitomizes the elegance and power of nature. And of course, no one expresses this sense of awe this creature inspires better than Blake. Hence, my poetic (and some may say, pretentious) posting in the countdown to Chinese New Year.

So the truth is, CNY is my least favorite festival (Chinese or otherwise). I would much rather celebrate Mid-Autumn or Winter Solstice. I didn't even like CNY as a kid with all the money from the hong bao (red packets) and, as a teen, even more money from Black Jack and poker winnings. I could not (and still cannot) stomach the excess of the festivities -- so much food and overeating! In many affluent ethnic Chinese communities today, the significance of putting out the good food and feasting after a hard winter to welcome spring is lost. In fact, nowadays, what we see commonly is an overtly literal manner of expressing wealth or the desire for wealth. Take for example, people who abandon their pets for new, bigger, more expensive, more trendy (etc. etc.) ones every CNY. Oh, and I won't start on the NOISE, because this note will turn into a rant.

I only started baking my own pineapple tarts and taking pains to prepare the reunion dinner feast when I moved away from Singapore and away from proximity to anything remotely Chinese in culture. Whether I like it or not, it is still the most important festival for all ethnic Chinese communities around the world (from China to Southeast Asia, and even here in America). And then of course, being a parent changes perspectives.

Like many of you who are as schooled in Blake as in Confucius, I much prefer to spend time putting up the Christmas tree with my kids, then teaching them how to write 春 with a calligraphy brush. I recognize that I am responsible for how much culture I impart to my kids, especially since we're not living in a majority Chinese community.

So, of course I feel guilty as hell that I'm totally not prepared for CNY this year. No decorations, no tangerines, no hong bao (yet), no tarts and no food for reunion dinner. Blame it on the snowpocalypse. So to make amends, I will give up my regular yoga class this Sunday to take the kids to Silver Spring for the best dim sum in the region, and then to watch a lion dance performance and view an exhibition on Confucius in a mall in Gaithersburg. Amon and I also have a date to go see the terracotta warriors at the National Geographic in D.C. (hope Farragut North metro is accessible by then).

These, I feel are much better ways of imbibing culture and tradition than canisters of tarts and bak kwa (although I won't mind some of those).

So, I look forward to welcoming the tiger. And I hope all of you do too, in your own way. (Actually, my only real wish is to see the Tiger who uses irons and woods again. I'm not going to judge what he did or didn't do. I just want to watch him play golf...cos it's damn boring without him on tour!)


This was written on Feb 12 and the first day of the Lunar New Year fell on Feb 14.

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