Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Belated Birthday, Happy Valentines Day and Happy Hokkien Chinese New Year

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

And Happy Belated Birthday too! Yesterday was Yan Yat (Peole’s Day) meaning it’s everyone’s birthday. And since this is a Chinese belief, does it only apply to all the Chinese people in the world?

Most people have birthdays according to the Gregorian calendar. However, once Yan Yat comes along, an extra day gets added to that. This means I was 31 years old as of 1st Feb but as of yesterday, I’m 32 years old. I don’t understand the concept but then again I don’t understand a lot of things Chinese.

I’m so not Chinese. I’m a typical banana but I have no issues with it. I was brought up speaking English at home. I even spoke English to my grand mother and relatives of that generation. English is the most important language for me in the world I live in, in terns of the business world as well as my social circle. I know enough Mandarin and Cantonese to order food, ask for directions as well as to tell the masseuse when to use more strength or when to ease off. So that level of Chinese language comprehension is sufficient for me.

However, I am now marrying into a family which is a bit more traditional than what I’m used to. While everyone understands English perfectly well, it’s quite normal for them to sit though and entire meal conversing in Cantonese. I may understand most of what they are talking about but engaging in conversation in Cantonese is tough for me. I’ll have to think of what I want to say, in English, naturally, then translate it to Cantonese in my head before speaking out the words. So by the time I do that, they have moved on to another topic of conversation. So I mainly sit there and smile or ask Paul what they mean by a certain phrase.

But I am trying to be more Chinese in order to understand the in-laws and their side of the family more. In fact, when I was at Borders yesterday, I picked up 3 different books about the origins of Chinese Culture and the meanings of Chinese dishes.

They are written in English and even have comics of the olden Chinese people to help narrate the story and get the Chinese morals across to the non-Chinese people aka Caucasians and bananas like me who live in a western world but would like to know more about Chinese history and culture.

I’ve probably learnt more about the Chinese culture in the last few months than in the last few years since Paul and I announced our engagement and I’ve gotten more involved in Paul’s family and extended family too.

Like I never knew there was such a thing like Yan Yat. While I knew that my Chinese age is one year older than my English age, I didn’t know that the additional year gets added on during Yan Yat.

And while I knew that the Hokkien people celebrate Chinese New Year today (the 8th day of Chinese New Year), I’ve never experienced it for myself. But I’ll get to today because Paul’s mother’s sister’s husband is Hokkien and they do the full ceremony every 8th day of CNY. Paul's family and extended family are quite involved in each other's lives as are most Chinese families. It will probably be an eye opener for me but more than anything else, I’m there for the whole roasted pig which is a must at this ceremony.

And it’s also Valentines Day. And as western as I am, I no longer celebrate V Day. I used to when I was much younger and feel a need to comply and do the V Day thing. But as I get older, I don’t need it anymore. Paying triple the price for flowers and a meal makes me or my partner just plan stupid and gullible. For the extra money spent, we can have 2 additional meals or go to a much nicer restaurant at any other day.

So Happy Belated Birthday, Happy Valentines Day and Happy Hokkien Chinese New Year everyone!

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