This is my second Chinese New Year in Brunei (The Engineer’s third), and I am starting to get to know some of the traditions. I even recognise some of the
carols songs that play in the stores. I know that it’s all about red and gold and oranges. I know what some of the foods are, and that they are shared with family and friends at open houses. I know that children are given red envelopes/ang pao that contain money (The Engineer’s Baby received her first last year, before she was even a baby). I know that it’s a lunar holiday and moves each year. I know that people decorate with lanterns and watch lion dances. I know that there are fire works. Oh boy, there are fire works.
These things may be small, but before I came to Brunei, I knew nothing. I had a vague idea of the Chinese zodiac (I was born in the year of the Rat). But I didn’t know much of anything about the celebration. Small town New Zealand doesn’t have a very large Chinese community, so it doesn’t really make an appearance… And I may be learning slowly, but I’m learning.
This is one of the things I love most about living in Brunei: the chance to learn more about different cultures and the world. Because it’s not only local culture we learn about. I have friends from France, Lithuania, Turkey, Belgium, UK, Netherlands, Canada, Malaysia, and more, and little by little I learn about traditions, food, and culture from all over the world. New Zealand is fairly multi-cultural, so I always felt l was reasonably culturally aware. But being here has made me realise just how wrong I was.
So in this new year, I am pledging to make the most of the opportunity I have here, and to learn as much as I can about the cultures I am exposed to. By the time we ring in the year of the monkey, I hope to know more about not only Chinese New Year, but about all sorts of other traditions from around the world. It’s a goal I’m so excited about. And maybe I’ll even teach some people about New Zealand in the process.
Bring on the year of the Sheep/Goat! Gong Xi Fa Cai!