|Two weeks of merry-making to usher in the year of the Rooster. Picture by Jehan Mohd.|
Bloomberg's piece on young Chinese celebrating the Lunar New Year outside China for shopping and sightseeing resonates with the actions of some Malaysians who belong to different ethnic groups. The article describes the trend among some Chinese notably the younger adults, who eschew the traditional pilgrimage back to their hometowns, preferring to spend their seven-day festive break, also known as Spring Festival, exploring the world rather than feeling miserable at home. This will allow them to "bypass the mobs, clogged roads and subways, lousy customer services as well as boredom" -- features, the Bloomberg article says, "mark holidays at home". Their favourite destinations are Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia and "outbound travel for the holiday break is expected to top a record six million passengers". "Rising incomes and an expanding network of international flights" are driving the craze among the young Chinese.
Statistics are not immediately available but anecdotal evidence suggests that young Malaysians and not so young ones will also be doing the same thing. Carina, a seamstress based in Ipoh, will be spending a quiet new year in her hometown for a variety of reasons. But this was not the case in previous years. The hardworking dressmaker always looks forward to Chinese New Year because this is the time she takes a long break usually two or three weeks to travel overseas with her family. Going away on vacation with the family is a worth while experience, and a great way to "chill out" or de-stress, she says.
|Yee sang, a New Year delicacy enjoyed in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Picture by Jehan Mohd.|
The Chinese are not the only ones who want to escape the strictness of tradition at home. The other ethnic groups in Malaysia do it too. A growing number of Malay Muslims find it appealing to observe Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, the festival that follows the end of Ramadan, away from Malaysia. It is not a new phenomenon but the movement is gaining more and more adherents. Some want to avoid the tedium of reunions with quarrelsome relatives while those who have lost their parents and other loved ones cannot cope with the pain of going back to an empty family home. It appears that their enthusiasm for "balik kampung" has disappeared following the demise of the anchors in their lives. They appear to have embraced the new tradition, finding enjoyment in new experiences and different environments.
However, the practice has come in for criticism from purists who feel rituals associated with festivals such as the Lunar New Year and Hari Raya Aidil Fitri must not be tampered with. A re-connection with the ancestral homes and extended family is the essence of these celebrations, they say. According to Bloomberg, more than 414 million Chinese will leave their adopted homes in Shenzhen, Beijing or overseas to re-establish ties with their ancestral dwellings in China for this year's Spring Festival celebration which is from Jan 27 to Feb 2.
Happy Lunar New Year to those celebrating and enjoy the long weekend to the others.
|Chinese living overseas head home to welcome the New Year with their families. Picture by Jehan Mohd.|
I can totally relate, because since my grandparents passed on and we don't have a "rumah pusaka" to go back to, my parents and I would spend Raya abroad too. And we would try to do our prayers at Rumah Malaysia / Malaysia High Comm or the community mosque.
But that's not to say that I don't miss my cousins and all. I guess, nowadays, we would only meet during weddings or funerals.. sad as it may sound!