As per the custom for the Chinese during the Lunar New Year (also known locally here as Chinese New Year), we will make visits to our relative’s homes with our families in tow, where we will catch up with other, have a meal together, and if you’re married it will be customary to give out red packets of ‘Ang Pao’ to the children and to those who younger than us.
In the previous year, we avoided home visits due to the covid spike and lockdowns, so it felt like it has been 2 years since we last saw our relatives in person this time around. We went around to my father-in-law’s immediate family’s homes on the first day and by the end of the day two things, in particular, struck me and stood out in my mind.
Physical Possessions Do Not Trump Relationships
As my in-laws were in their late sixties, their siblings too were older and were in their golden years, ranging from 70 to 80 years old. As we visited their homes I noted that their houses contained relics and expensive big wooden furniture that have been regarded as a status symbol back in the days. There were also items such as figurines, collectibles, and decorative items that were on display in many areas of their homes. The problem was that these items that accumulated over the years over-crowded their homes, taking over their common spaces, and no longer fit well inside their homes, more so due to the smaller size of their living spaces.
Some of them have moved into smaller homes due to only the husband and wife staying together now, as their children were grown and had moved out to different cities and countries and were not home. However, they lugged their old large furnishings to their second homes too and hence it took over the spaces, where these spaces may have once been needed for children.
They showed me photos of their grown children and grandchildren who were staying abroad and could not make it back to visit this year, and talked about what their kids were up to and the stories behind each photo, and I believe that their children’s physical presence would have been more desired instead.
Later on, we went to another relative’s house, it was furnished with basic furniture, set in a more modern smaller double-story terrace house, but in it lived three generations of the family with the grandparents, children, and grandchildren under one roof. It had minimal furnishing, a larger kitchen and dining area, and was mainly filled with their occupants instead, and the home was noisy and well used. No photos were shown there, we interacted with the children and grandchildren in person, and wished the grandparents well. We snacked on their food and so did our kids and gave out red packets of ‘Ang Pao’.
Which of these two homes would you prefer to be in when you are older?
The Importance of Health
Over the years we saw the health of some of our relatives and even my parent’s health decline with age, and this year we saw more of the elderly relatives affected with illnesses and disabilities that affected their quality of life. It was more difficult for those who had developed illnesses and were only living with their spouse without the support of their children, due to geographical reasons. Some were no longer around due to deaths in the family. Even some developed an illness while they younger, in their forties, due to mishaps and falls which they never fully recovered from due to pre-existing health issues.
For the older relatives, I recall five years prior they were in much better health compared to current, and it was sad to see their condition deteriorate over this time. Aafter hearing them share in quite great lengths about their health updates, I do wonder how many more years they can have with us and how they need to make the most of their time left.
This brings me to this second observation and point, which is that health and wellness are key to be a happy wholesome life.
More so than wealth.
We have also the custom to give well wishes to our elders in our lunar new year greetings, the most popular wishes usually include wishes for wealth and prosperity, but we also have wishes for good health for one’s body and mind. The latter in particular is very practical, as year on year we do wish to see each other well and thriving. Instead of the usual “Gong Xi Fa Cai” which means wishing someone to enlarge their wealth, I think the greetings and wishes for good health have become my preferred choice to wish others and to receive in return.
Those are my two observations and takeaways from this year’s Lunar new year, after our rounds of house-to-house visitations.
When I am older and have retired, I would want to have my time spent with family, children, and future grandchildren and make new memories with them over the years, even if our physical home may be smaller.
Expensive furniture and collectibles will only serve their purpose for a season and then should not be prioritized over relationships with family and with others.
In my opinion, relationships are the ones that have a future, and others such as certain physical material possessions can remain in the past and not necessarily be brought along if they are no longer relevant to you.
Another thing is to prioritize good health so we will have more time being with family and children, and especially if you are married, to still be able to enjoy activities and maybe travels with your spouse while we are old. Of course, this is my personal preference and others may have different priorities.
To end this write-up, here’s my wish to all that as the years go by, we will grow not only in wealth, but in wisdom, love, and have good health. Make the most of your time now while you still have good health and vitality now, and Happy Chinese Lunar New Year!