New Moon Rising

The Lunar New Year starts on the first new moon of each calendar year.

Legend holds that Chinese New Year began with a battle against a mythical beast called Nian, who would come on the first day of the New Year to eat children, livestock, and crops. In order to protect themselves from the Nian, villages put food in front of their doors believing that the creature would eat that and leave everything else alone. It was believed that the Nian was afraid of the colour red and firecrackers, so people would hang red lanterns outside and set off firecrackers.

Gong Xi Fa Cai readers! I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity this Year of the Horse.

Does it sound as if I’m just mouthing words? Actually these ones are packed with meaning. The horse signifies surprises in adventure and romance and so my wishes carry a special flavor indeed. Firstly safety from Nian the beast, and a life that includes excitement and vitality!

I find it fascinating that someone from any race and religion can bestow this greeting. Isn’t it interesting that Malaysians are all so different and yet in so many ways the same? We grew up in the same culture, we like each other’s food, and we celebrate each other’s festivals. Where one ends, the other begins.

My Muslim neighbor initiated Christmas lunch recently. She baked the turkey and spuds. Coincidentally another Muslim friend invited me for Christmas dinner. We had turkey, curry laksa, and roti canai on the table. How fabulous!

We’ve been hosting each other’s important days for the longest time. It’ll be my turn to host Chap Goh Mei and Valentines Day; both fall on Feb 14 this year. The 15th day of the Lunar New Year ends on a full moon day. I’ve decided my theme will be “Crazy Love!”

Under love’s influence we do crazy things – like get married. In the old days young maidens were only allowed to go out on Chap Goh Mei. They were always accompanied by fierce chaperones. Remember, girls were a liability then and families hoped to secure a decent dowry through offering her hand to an eligible suitor. Not surprisingly, this attracted many a shrewd matchmaker.

I’d like to think we’re a more liberated society now. Throw oranges in the sea for all I care, but why get married? I peg marriage to medieval times. Given the rate of divorce and infidelity these days, isn’t it obvious this contract doesn’t work in today’s environment?

“Forever till death do us part?” We soon realize we are our greatest enemies. Ask an Asian man to work on his marriage and he thinks it’s about how much money he makes.

Too many children today grow up shuttling between two parents. Men age and as they do, their eyesight suffers. They see less and less the woman they have beside them. Midlife crisis – Voila! Our 40 – something begins to think he’s 20 again and wants to re – experience lurrve (with another partner).

I can spout another mouthful about women who think marriage is about raising kids. Especially if you think your man doesn’t mind, it matters. If you insist on being the maid, why not play the “au pair?”

As a woman entrepreneur I find Malaysia a unique habitat. Our leaders say they want to promote the development of women and support our ascent to the boardroom, but I believe we’ve still some hurdles to clear in that direction. Last week I made a presentation to a senior team who said they loved my work. On my way out, the Chairman said, “I was looking at your curves the whole time.”

I’m glad tradition has a remedy for Nian the beast. Make a big noise. Wear red. Put food out and hang red lanterns at your door. Only issue is I think the beast of today has morphed into something more sinister.

What does “Nian the beast” look like to you? To me it resembles an insidious virus. It’s that dark monster that erodes family values, stirs up discontent and suspicion amongst friends. It’s the man who discounts and reduces a woman with his prejudices and power games.

Since way back, festivals have always been centered on community: family and friends. Let’s build community, why don’t we. How we celebrate, what we eat, what we wear, are all mere trappings. In the end it’s all about: You + Me = Us = We.

I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity in the year of the horse.


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