The Lunar New Year is just round the corner! Among the Chinese, this is probably the most highly anticipated season of the year. It is a time for family reunions, a time for sharing, a time of renewal, and a time of joy. Even non-Chinese Singaporeans may take opportunity to join in the festivities!
The Lunar New Year is not a Christian celebration. Nevertheless, Chinese Christians celebrate it as part of our culture and heritage. During the first century, Jews who converted to Christianity continued to practice circumcision and eating of kosher food, not as a matter of doctrine or salvation, but as a matter of culture (Acts 16:1-3; Galatians 5:6). Similarly, Christians may celebrate the Lunar New Year, not religiously, but culturally.
Although the Lunar New Year can be celebrated culturally, there are those who celebrate it religiously. There are many rituals, rooted in ancestral worship, which are practiced during the Lunar New Year period. There are many traditions, rooted in superstitious beliefs, that are practiced during the Lunar New Year also. Hence, Christians must exercise wisdom during this period. The Lunar New Year can surely be spent productively in a Christian, godly fashion; but we need to be careful not to get caught up in practices that have no Scriptural basis. Here are some dos and don’ts for your Lunar New Year:
1. Do Be Gracious Visitors
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46)
The Lunar New Year is a time for mutual visitation. Usually, the younger will visit the elders, in order to show honour and respect. Families will gather together for reunion. From a Christian perspective, this is a good thing! The early Christians met on a regular basis for fellowship and mutual encouragement (Acts 2:46; Hebrews 3:13). Why not take your visitation program to the next level, and plan on visiting some Christian brethren to encourage them during this festive season!
If you are going to be visiting, please remember to be gracious guests. Do not overburden the hosts by making a mess or demanding for more food. Remember, we are visiting, not to be served, but to serve! (Matthew 23:11). Make yourself useful, clean up after yourself, and add cheer to the house!
2. Do Be Generous Givers
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
The Lunar New Year is a time for sharing, especially through the giving of red packets with money inside (angbao). Those who are married will give angbaos to those who are younger and unmarried. From a Christian perspective, it is a good thing to give and share! Christians should take every opportunity to do good to others, especially to those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). It is indeed a joy to see Christians sharing this joy by giving angbaos to one another.
If you are giving out angbaos during this Lunar New Year, hopefully you are not doing so grudgingly, but cheerfully! (2 Corinthians 9:7). Jesus Himself had said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Do look out, not just for your close family members, but for those who are needy and afflicted (James 1:27). Also, while we may be excited to give out angbaos to one another on Sunday, let us refrain from doing so before the worship service. Instead, we ought to prepare our minds for worship, and we can give out angbaos after the worship service and bible classes are over.
3. Do Be Grateful Receivers
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
When there are angbaos to give, there are angbaos to receive. If you are on the receiving end, let us be grateful and thankful for the blessings. Do not begrudge if someone did not give an angbao to you. Do not be unhappy if the amount is less than you expected. Be thankful and contented with what you receive (1 Timothy 6:6).
Furthermore, let us take the opportunity during this festive season to give thanks to the Giver of all good things: God. We know that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father (James 1:17). Hopefully, we are not complainers and murmurers like the Israelites in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:10). Instead, let us show our gratitude and thanksgiving to God for everything we receive (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
4. Don’t Count on Superstitions
“But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7)
During the Lunar New Year, there are many traditions and practices that are based on superstitious beliefs. Some common ones may include: to avoid bad luck, avoid wearing black colour and odd numbers; to keep the good fortune in, avoid sweeping the house and avoid washing your hair etc. Furthermore, we will often see infographics with predictions about your future, based on your zodiac sign. All these practices and predictions are not based on God’s word, but on man-made traditions and superstitions. During this festive season, Christians must be careful not to get carried away with these things.
Is it wrong to wear red during the Lunar New Year? It is no sin to wear the colour red. However, it would be sin to trust in man-made traditions instead of God (Colossians 2:8). Is it wrong to wear black during the Lunar New Year? It is not a sin either. Admittedly, we should not purposefully ruffle feathers by going against the prevalent customs (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). On the other hand, we ought not make a fuss if someone does not comply with such customs, because at the end of the day, these are not divine traditions, but man-made. So let us be sensitive to the customs, but not subservient to them!
5. Do Not Be Captivated By Material Prosperity
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10)
Material prosperity is a big theme during the Lunar New Year. All sorts of new year traditions are practiced with the hopes of bringing in good fortune for the upcoming year. Greetings such as “恭喜发财” and “年年有馀” are often exchanged to wish one another prosperity. Songs like “财神到” (i.e. god of wealth has arrived) are popularly played and sung (side note: should Christians be singing “财神到?”). Even the food that is served is meant to invite prosperity e.g. fish & dumplings.
Is it wrong to wish prosperity for one another? The apostle John wished prosperity and good health for the brethren (3 John 1:2). But John ensured that, first and foremost, their souls prospered (3 John 1:2). Is it good to be rich? Jesus warned that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom (Matthew 19:24). Riches itself are not evil, but the love of money leads to all sorts of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Hence, Jesus exhorts us to prioritize heavenly treasures above earthly ones (Matthew 6:19). Therefore, during a season when everyone is focused on material prosperity, let us not get carried away.
6. Don’t Cancel on God
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38)
The Lunar New Year tends to be a very busy season. There is spring cleaning to do, groceries to buy, food to cook, angbaos to prepare etc. With all the things to do, it is tempting to put God aside. It is tempting to forsake the Sunday assembly because of our personal visitation program. It is tempting to skip daily bible reading because of our busy schedules. It is tempting to sing “财神到” instead of “To God be the Glory.”
If we put God aside for the Lunar New Year, we may not realize it, but we are putting God at second place. Do we love our relatives more than God? (Matthew 10:37). Do we love our man-made traditions more than God’s traditions? (Colossians 2:8). Do we love money more than God? (Matthew 6:24). Let us not forget that all our blessings originate, not from 财神, but from the true and living God. Hence, let us not make the mistake of putting God aside, because without God, we are nothing!
Hopefully, the above pointers can help us to celebrate the Lunar New Year productively and profitably. Wishing everyone a Happy Lunar New Year!