From left: Frs Eugene Lee, Damian De Wind, Donatien Davaine and Valerian Cheong celebrating the Peranakan Mass on Feb 18. A traditional altar can be seen in the foreground.From left: Frs Eugene Lee, Damian De Wind, Donatien Davaine and Valerian Cheong celebrating the Peranakan Mass on Feb 18. A traditional altar can be seen in the foreground.SINGAPORE – It was a night of colour and culture as nyonyas in sarong kebaya and babas in baju lokchuan descended on the Church of the Holy Family for the Lunar New Year Eve Peranakan Mass.

The atmosphere was decidedly festive as four priests – Fr Damian De Wind, Redemptorist Fr Eugene Lee, Fr Valerian Cheong and French priest Fr Donatien Davaine – celebrated the Feb 18 Mass in the Peranakan patois.

Fr Eugene, who delivered the homily in fluent Peranakan, drew laughs from the crowd as he gave tips on how one could celebrate the new year. These included “choot lat buang kita penya pai piak” (working hard to eradicate one’s bad temper), and getting rid of one’s selfishness and arrogance, he said.
Nyonyas and babas singing in the choir.Nyonyas and babas singing in the choir.

He noted that one is called to pray, fast and perform works of charity during Lent, and gave suggestions on how these can be done.

One can deepen one’s prayer life by reading about the lives of saints, such as Mother Teresa, he said. There are also many smartphone apps these days that offer daily spiritual reflections, he added.

One can “fast” by sharing one’s possession with others, and perform works of charity by listening to other people’s problems, and being respectful, he added.

He drew more laughs from the crowd when he said that the “mouth can be a weapon of mass destruction”, and urged the crowd to be mindful of the words that they speak.

“Don’t ask sensitive questions during [Lunar New Year] visits such as ‘when are you getting married?” he said. “People may feel embarrassed. This is kaypoh [being a busybody].”

During the Mass, which also featured a Peranakan altar complete with traditional offerings, a special tribute was paid to the late Fr Alfred Chan, who started the annual Mass 30 years ago.

“I believe Fr Alfred Chan is in heaven and smiling as he sees us praying here,” said Mr Rocky Chan, chairperson of the Peranakan community of Holy Family Church.

Fr Chan passed away in 2013.

By Christopher Khoo
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