Time For A Break

Time For A Break

Ng And Siew Lean Kong

Ng And Siew Lean Kong

To some Malaysian families, Chinese New Year is not about traditional get-togethers or merrymaking. Rather, it’s the time to get away from the hustle and bustle and spend quality family time in a foreign destination, writes SHANTI GUNARATNAM

THE wind of change is blowing towards many age-old traditions, particularly spending the lunar new year in the homes of matriarchs and patriarchs.

Instead of returning home to spend Chinese New Year with their parents, in-laws and relatives, many are packing and heading for some exotic destinations.

In the case of Billy Fong, his idea of a good Chinese New Year holiday is to spend time in Puttaparthi, north Bangalore, India, with his spiritual guru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

But Fong, who owns his own seminar consulting firm, will not be alone on this annual trip.

His wife, two children and some 400 members of the various Sathya Sai Baba organisations will be joining him, as in the previous years.

In Puttaparthi, which is transformed into Chinatown during the festive season by the hundreds of Chinese who converge there from all over the world, is one big happy place to be during the lunar new year.

The whole place will be decorated with cherry blossoms, ang pow packets. lights and lanterns, filled with activities such dragon and lion dances, plays and dramas and fantastic vegetarian meals, all prepared by the devotees themselves.

“Puttaparthi is a wonderful place to be during Chinese New Year because of the activities there. We learn so much about the importance of filial piety and values from Sai Baba himself” says Fong.

“We never miss home and the lunar new year celebrations when we are in Puttaparthi.”

Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in Puttaparthi, which has the capacity to house thousands of devotees, is called Prashanti Nilayam.

Fong and his family often spend three to four days in Puttaparthi before returning home to continue with the Chinese New Year festivities in Malaysia with their family and friends.

Stressing the importance of filial piety and values, Fong says he goes home to Penang one or two days before Chinese New Year to have the reunion dinner and spend the first day of the lunar year with his octogenarian father and siblings before leaving for India on the second day.

Spending time with his father, he says, is just as important as his trip to Puttaparthi.

“I leave for India only after fulfilling my obligations to my father and siblings.”

For printing shop proprietor Ng Kai Ling, it doesn’t make much of a difference if she misses her family’s reunion dinner or spending the first few days of the lunar new year with her relatives and friends.

More importantly, spending time with her husband and daughter in a faraway land is very crucial to her.

“The Chinese New Year holidays are the only time we can spend time together as a family,” says Ng, who this year will be going to Harbin in northeast China for eight days.

“At no other time during the year will my husband, daughter and I will be able to go away together because someone has to look after the business.

What fun will it be if we cannot get away for the holidays as a family, at least once a year. We really look forward to the Chinese New Year holidays.”

China is the family’s preferred holiday destination because they enjoy its culture, food, hospitality of the mainlanders and the shopping.

Ng and her family, who started travelling 10 years with their first trip to Disneyland in Los Angeles, have also gone on holidays to Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Thailand and numerous trips to China.

“The Chinese New year celebrations in China are no different from Malaysia. However, they only celebrate it on the first two days of the lunar instead of 15 days, unlike how it’s done in Malaysia.

We don’t feel guilty about not joining the reunion dinner because both sides of our families are in Kuala Lumpur. If we want to have reunion dinners, we can do it every weekend.”

The New Straights Time Online Reference

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