Chinese New Year is one of the grandest and most important occasions in the Chinoy community. Aside from the fact that you get to take a day off and eat all your favorite comfort foods, the highlight is usually the family gatherings. This year is likely going to be even more special because it’s probably the first time everyone gets to celebrate Chinese New Year in person since 2020. However, family reunions are often tricky situations. There are some who look forward to it, while others dread it because they don’t want to be subject to the scrutiny of their relatives.
We have to admit, there tends to be tension whenever extended families get together. It might not always be palpable, but a family gathering could easily turn into a competition that is rife with backhanded compliments, criticism, and gossip. And for those who are insecure, those who don’t have the same things as others, and those who are going through life at a different pace, it’s understandable why they would much rather stay at home rather than be at a family gathering. After almost 3 years of not being able to celebrate Chinese New Year in person, here are some things to consider to make the upcoming CNY gathering a warm and welcoming one.
Not everything should be a competition
We’ve all found ourselves staging an impromptu talent show during a family gathering. Your mom might ask you to play a song on the piano while an aunt might ask their daughter to sing during karaoke. Other times, an uncle would share that their child graduated second honors, while another aunt would chime in that their child graduated first honors. A few compliments and congratulations would be exchanged in between, but really, it’s just a constant cycle of waiting for your turn to share your child’s achievements. There’s nothing wrong with this, since it’s a chance for parents to show that they are proud of their kids, but it might brew resentment in parents who don’t have much to share and put pressure on the children to achieve something in order not to shame their parents. Don’t make the next family gathering a competition. If you want to share your child’s or your own achievements, don’t do it unprompted, and when you offer congratulations, make sure it’s genuine rather than using it as an opportunity to one-up the other.
Don’t gossip about those who broke the Great Wall
Breaking the Great Wall is no longer out of the ordinary for the current generation, but it’s still a bit frowned upon by elder relatives. Due to this, couples who have broken the Great Wall might choose to skip family gatherings altogether, which gives others a chance to gossip about them. These couples are often spoken about in condescending tones, with parents either despairing that their son or daughter had married a Filipino or relatives joining in to criticize the Filipino partner. Unless that partner is a genuinely horrible person, there is really no excuse to criticize or look down upon them based on their ethnicity.
Social class shouldn’t be the main focus
Chinoy culture often has an unspoken emphasis on social class. A high social class is not necessarily a requirement, but it still makes a difference when it comes to parents approving or disapproving your choice of life partner. It’s understandable, since parents want to make sure that their children are able to live a comfortable life with their future spouse, but it isn’t right to put as much emphasis on social class during family gatherings. Admit it, we tend to base our seating arrangements on social class, and it’s rare to see wealthy families and middle-class families sitting together on the same table. This defeats the purpose of family gatherings, since we should be taking the opportunity to celebrate together rather than find more ways to discriminate against each other. This isn’t a networking event, so just sit wherever you want without giving much thought to whether the person next to you is on the same level as you or not.
Don’t make others feel compelled to start a business
Chinoys being inclined towards business is both a stereotype and the truth, but just because it’s true for most doesn’t mean it’s true for all. There tends to be an overemphasis on business during family gatherings, with relatives often sharing updates on how their business is doing and talking about what new venture they can pursue. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but it starts to get alienating when relatives start asking questions like “when will you start your own business?” or “when will you take over your family business?” Some people are content with climbing the career ladder as an employee or pursuing a creative field, so there’s no need to make them feel that they need to start a business in order to feel fulfilled in life.
Of course, there is no right or wrong way to conduct family gatherings, but let’s not let such things become a part of tradition. After all, it’s been almost three years since we last got together for Chinese New Year, so let’s make it an occasion to celebrate togetherness and catch up with each other without feeling the need to upstage, discriminate or alienate anyone.