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jiā tíng (Family / Home)

Almost every culture or race has a festival where family, identity and culture are celebrated. For many Chinese, it will be the Chinese New Year (CNY) festival.

In modern and urbanised Singapore, the communal celebration as a village and clan is largely lost. There is no noisy firing of crackers or fireworks to gather the village. So, all across our city, we huddle in apartments flats, mostly behind closed doors. And with the added Covid19 measures, we will be having a quiet festive season this year.

The Reunion Dinner on CNY Eve is the most important gathering for most families. This meal is the homing magnet that gathers the ties that bind. On the menu would be dishes and cookies which carry the family tradition, may it be Nonya, Hakka, Cantonese or Hokkien.

No matter how strained family ties are, families still try to gather, and there is a staying of grievances. As conversations flow, we remember that family is a given and a gift. This can sometimes flow into unspoken forgiveness as we let bygones be bygones. For those who come from broken families, the reunion night can cruelly open some old wounds. These wounds, still open and gaping, do not heal completely on this side of life. Yet by His grace, we move on.

The second day will be about visiting relatives, and on the third day, close friends, even if it is just eight.

For a few days, work is set aside as the home becomes center stage. It has been a while since one stood at the balcony and gazed at his neighbourhood. It has been a while since we sat on the sofa long enough to be reminded of the special role the living room has played in gathering the family. As a proud father watches his children (or grandchildren!), problems at work recede into the background. The unquenchable desire for honour is paused. Indeed the home can be a graveyard of of career ambitions. We recalibrate our perspective.

Family and friends are precious gifts of life. If love is to last for eternity (1 Corinthians 13), it must be predicated on family and friendship ties. Indeed, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” James 1:17

As Christians, we can be grateful for the many gifts He has bestowed on us through our culture, family and friends. And most of all, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, who has called us into His family.


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