(Read Time: 4 Minutes)
Chinese New Year traditions have been passed down for generations, but over the years, less and less families are practicing them as individuals have outgrown them. Why is that? So many people have outgrown the traditions. Traditions have lost their meanings and in general, people have shifted towards celebrating the holiday promotes happiness and freedom in their own way (such as traveling abroad) which is important. But instead what if we updated the traditions in our own way to give it more personalized meanings and heart?
Gong Hei Fat Choy (Wishing You or Congratulations To You in Advance For Your Increased Wealth):
As Ronny Chieng put it simply in his Netflix special, “Asian Comedian Destroys America”: Gong Hei Fat Choy means “I hope you get rich” because “Chinese people love money so much” and apparently more than other cultures. So instead of just wishing someone to become financially more wealthy, how about we internally switch the meaning of “choy” (implies financial wealth) to abundance – an umbrella term that covers financial wealth, health, happiness and overall smoothness for the best outcome for the person to come true. Abundance opens up your well wishes to someone in a holistic way. So when you say “Gong Hei Fat Choy” or “Gong Xi Fa Cai” in Mandarin, you can say it in a more heartfelt way, so that to you it means “Congratulations To You In Advance For Your Increased Abundance”.
The Three Wishes
Following Gong Hei Fat Choy (or Gong Xi Fa Cai) in Mandarin, it is traditional to say three wishes to someone for their well-being, which then they gift a red envelope (with money) in return for your sentiments. However, over the years, much of the sentiments have been lost, and instead wishing someone well has just become practical (and dare I say stemmed from greed), a common call to action to then get money from someone else. So instead, can we actually send three well-wishes along unconditionally? Meaning wishing them well even if we don’t get something out of it. Yes we know ultimately we will be rewarded with a red envelope, as the older generations follow tradition, but how about we say it without the pretense of knowing that there will be a reward. Like the common adage, “If you don’t mean it, don’t say it at all”. So let’s remind ourselves to communicate mindfully.
Bai Leen (Visiting Homes of Relatives and Friends to celebrate the New Year):
Bai Leen is a tradition back in the olden days to visit home so relatives, friends, co-workers and superiors at work. The idea was for one’s family to connect with another, and in some cases, to put bluntly, kiss their boss’s ass (unless they actually like their boss). During the home visit, you often greet one another with Gong Hei Fat Choy, followed by saying your three wishes, then you receive a red envelope. You then politely stay a while to talk, eat and enjoy some of the holiday together. The thing is, sometimes parents and kids drag their feet a little with this one as more and more people would rather spend their time off doing something else they find more enjoyable. In some households they feel it’s the time to dress up in their best outfits and be prepared for any snarky comments from Auntie Cathy (remember her from our previous article “Self-Care Tips During the Holidays”?). Perhaps prepare a few interesting topics to talk about in your head, or activities you can share joyfully together in advance, maybe that can add more laughter and fun towards bai leen.
The CNY “Don’t Do This or That” Expressions:
Traditionally were told not to:
Wash our hair on Chinese New Year Day (or you wash your luck away)
Don’t cut your hair a month after Chinese New Year (it cuts your luck up)
Not buy shoes (“hai” in Cantonese, which sounds like a gloomy sigh) after Chinese New Year for a month following Chinese New Year or else you’ll sigh your luck away.
And many more!
Follow as you wish of course. Everyone has their own freedom to see the world in their own way. However, in my opinion, many of those expressions are fear-based (meaning if you do or don’t do something, you’ll have bad luck or have less fortune. We’ve made it this far in life. There’s enough fear going around as it is, we don’t need more. Enjoy the fruits of your labour (your time off)! There will always be ups and downs in life. That’s how we learn, grow and become better. Let’s not set up the new year with limitations that could get in the way of your intentions. And by the way, there is such as thing as negative manifestations, so communicate, consciously to yourself and others!
Now go LIVE, don’t take the words HAPPY NEW YEAR for granted and wish abundance for others and yourself meaningfully!
P.S. If you’re able to, share some abundance in a red envelope to the people who work hard behind the scenes of our city (i.e. street cleaners, janitors, elders who pick up cardboard off the streets and many more!) We give the energy we wish to receive right?
HAPPY NEW YEAR! MAY ALL BE WELL!