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Offline bitnet  
#1 Posted : Thursday, January 17, 2008 11:13:08 PM(UTC)
Joined: 7/3/2007(UTC)
Posts: 1,120

Shalom All,

It is coming to the time when the Chinese celebrate their new year and for those who do not know, this is the biggest cultural festival of the Chinese as a people. More than a billion Chinese will have family reunion dinners on the eve of a new luni-solar calendar. Millions will burn fireworks and crackers in the tradition of chasing away a man-eating winter monster/demon with loud noise and bright colours. (Nobody really believes this any more but fireworks are fun!) Billions of mandarin oranges and peanuts will change hands and land in stomachs of the Chinese and their neighbours. Billions of dollars will exchange hands in red packets as unconditional gifts of prosperity.

Millions of Chinese professing the Christian faith will participate but may refrain from showing any outward acceptance of anything that can be definitely identified as pagan, such as hosting dragon or lion dances, acknowledging ancestors with joss-sticks, and wearing or using anything that has a dragon on it. The annual symbols of the rat, ox, sheep, snake, etc. do not mean anything to bible-believers, nor do the earth, fire, wood, water or metal associations.

However, it is a joyful time as families are reunited. As part-Chinese, I understand the culture. It was a little "alien" to me (compared to Christmas) but it was fun when I received the red packets and enjoyed the cookies and food. It became a little ambiguous as I grew older, and when the Catholic church began celebrating CNY in earnestness by giving oranges and red packets in a building decorated with plastic and cardboard dragons, I felt uneasy. It got worse when the Chinese priests began to integrate the traditional ancestor worship prayer modified for church prayer, and asked the congregation to bow in reverence to God and the ancestors three times.

So a little leaven leavens the whole lump! What do we do? While we do not attend any Catholic mass anymore, we still meet up with the extended family and friends for a meal, and exchange greetings. Last year we gave out few red packets and oranges but wished everyone health and prosperity. We still refrained from unhealthy meats served, but enjoyed the traditional cookies. This year is slightly different as we may not even give the red packets as I think that the money can be used better for The Work instead of supporting a tradition.

Will we be ostracised for this? Perhaps, but it does not matter as the celebration means little to us now. But when in Rome, we are to do as the Romans do... within limits. So we apply the same principle and enjoy the holiday but without the same reverence. Apart from the familial respect, the symbols are quite meaningless, and ultimately so is the holiday. Should we beat ourselves over this or just let it go by... and enjoy the food and fellowship that it brings? Is it not allowed? Or would I be sending a wrong signal to non-believers?

Other cultures may also have feasts that are non-scriptural. I don't want to be dogmatic but if it is religious, I keep away. If it is cultural I use discretion. Is this a civilised way to live in the world today? Being in the world yet not part of it? I really do enjoy watching the different methods of celebrating festivals, especially in the Far East. Most festivals are religious but are fascinating to watch. It's not your average rattlesnake round-up or La Tomatina, as many festivals have meanings and nuances that reflect a history spanning centuries and millenia. We do not participate, but having it in your neighbour's backyard makes for interesting entertainment sometimes.

I'm not afraid to let you folks know that I am pouncing on some of my favourite cookies this year! We do not care for the symbols or symbolisms of CNY and we may or may not visit some friends to share in their joy this year but we shall endeavour to meet family. During each visit we shall try to share a little about festivals that really matter, the ones that we really look forward to celebrating. Fortunately we do not have to give out red packets during these Feasts!
The reverence of Yahweh is the beginning of Wisdom.
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