On Chinese New Year
Feb 15, 2018
Chandra Wim (“Wim”) is a Chinese Indonesian student in his sixth year of study at Wycliffe. He started in the Master of Theology program in 2012 and is now working on the dissertation for his Doctor of Theology. His research focuses on Asian biblical interpretation and explores how Asian theologians and preachers interpret Scripture. He hopes to graduate in 2019. On the eve of Chinese New Year, Wim took a few minutes to chat about his memories of the celebrations and to unpack what it all means.
Q: What is Chinese New Year?
CH: Chinese New Year is the celebration in Chinese culture that accompanies the beginning of a new year according to the lunar calendar. It is a time for families to gather and for people to say prayers and extend good wishes to one another.
Q: What are some of your personal memories of the holiday?
CH: Before my parents became Christians, they were nominal Buddhists for much of my childhood. So I remember going to temple to mark Chinese New Year. It was a time to say prayers – and to express hopes – especially for material prosperity.
Q: Tell us more.
CH: It is especially a time for visiting relatives. Children get new clothes. Everyone gets haircuts. The house is swept clean from top to bottom in preparation to host visitors. There is a great sense of anticipation. Everybody does their best to help prepare. My father, as one of the oldest in his family, would host all his younger siblings. I would see the faces of cousins that we would not see at any other time of the year.
The biggest feast – with lots of special foods - usually happens on the eve of Chinese New Year. Children gesture their respect to their elders with a special greeting, saying, Gong Xi Fa Cai, and are rewarded with Hong Bao – little red envelopes with some money inside. Traditionally, those relatives who are married give the envelopes to the younger, unmarried ones.
Q: How do the celebrations of Christians differ?
CH: Chinese New Year is largely a cultural holiday. In Indonesia, where there’s a huge Chinese population, it’s also a public holiday. People get time off work. Most Chinese churches hold special services, so Christians gather to worship and to pray – but rather than praying only for material prosperity, many people will also pray for spiritual well-being. And of course, families and extended families gather and there’s lots of good food. Many Chinese Christians contextualize the celebrations, just like many Christians here in Canada contextualize secular elements of the culture’s celebrations of Christmas. What is more, some Chinese churches and Christians also use this event as an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to others in a more relaxed and familial setting. New Year, new hope in Christ!