Chinese New Year
THE Chinese New Year, usually ushered in by a string of crackers, was quite prominently celebrated throughout Malaya, judging from the festive attire of the individuals and the joyous red hangings on the doors of houses. The Chinese Catholic Community closed their old year with the usual religious service thanking God for the graces of the past year, and began the new with attendance at Mass to ask this blessing for the New.
There are some who are inclined to object to the celebration of the New Year by Catholics with Church Services, on the grounds that it will be condoning the superstitious practices observed for the season by non-Catholics. The New Year as celebrated by the Chinese has no religious significance in itself. It is a purely secular event: the inauguration of a new year as calculated by a time honoured Chinese system based on the lunar-month. The superstitions and rites practised by the non-Catholic masses are introduced by the private individual as a means of ensuring for himself, according to his belief, a prosperous year.
Thus for Catholics the introduction of a religious element in their celebrations is in the way of sanctifying the year at its outset by asking the blessing of the Author of all good just as one may and should sanctify his day by devoting his first thoughts and acts to his Almighty Maker.
- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, 1st February, 1936 (pdf pp49)
The Church was lavishly decorated for the occasion. The altar was smothered with flowers. Long before 8 a.m. the Church was packed to full capacity.
On Sunday, February 3rd. the Eve of the Chinese New Year, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given at the Church of Our Lady Of Sorrows at 5.30 p.m., during which the Psalm Miserere and the Te Deum were chanted to beg pardon of God for all sins committed, and to thank Him for all graces and benefits received during the past year.
The Church was tastefully decorated for the New Year with flags and banners. The Main Altar was resplendent with lights and beautiful flowers. In fact, everyone and everything around bore signs of unspeakable joy and brightness.
The Chinese reckon their dates by the moon, and the first day of the first moon is the most important, and in this land of firecrackers, the noisiest day of the year. For weeks before, the bustle of preparation was in the air. The sign writers were working overtime in their shops and on improvised tables outside them, writing inscriptions on long strips of red paper that would be pasted around the three sides of every doorway. Stalls appeared in every street for the sale of these scrolls and of the vivid pictures of gods and heroes that would decorate the side walls and the smaller doors of the houses.
There was heavy traffic on river highway, for all who could leave their work were returning home for the New Year, and an abundance of firewood had to be brought in to tide the families over the two weeks when the boat people and the shops would make holiday. The sampans were three deep on the already crowded waterfront, many of them laden with wicker crates of geese, t h e favourite New Year dish, but some bearing pigs, also in wicker tube-like crates, for pork is welcome to the Chinese at all seasons.
By C. E. Joan
Once again the Chinese New Year comes round to gladden us, and we may, this year, sincerely greet our Chinese Readers: "A HAPPY, HOLY and PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR," for we are, doubtless, on the verge of brighter days! The Chinese of Malaya as well as members of other communities have been passing through unparalleled days of anxiety and depression. Unemployment has stalked through the land, and the Chinese as the largest community have probably suffered most; but it is heartening to think the clouds arc lifting and that better days are here. The year that is fast dying has been full of worries and anxiety but the year that is just beginning is pregnant with possibilities of a brighter future for all, and in particular for the Chinese. For there is not the darkest night that has no dawn, no storm that is not succeeded by a calm, no upheaval that does not ring peace in its train. The troubles and disappointments of yesteryear, so patiently borne, must be relegated to the past never to return. It is to the, future that we must look, placing all our hopes and confidence in Divine Providence.