Dear Brethren,

Can Christians Celebrate Chinese New year?

This coming week, the Chinese will celebrate an important festival i.e. our lunar new year. It begins with the traditional reunion dinner on new year’s eve this Wednesday and follow by two public holidays that most people will typically visit their loved ones and relatives and having meals together. Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days.

The Bible does not forbid us to celebrate our cultural traditions, practices and heritage as long as it does not go against the commandments of the Lord. Hence, as Christians, we can live our faith to the fullest, while celebrating our lunar new year. There are many rich traditions in our lunar new year that we can learn from. Even in the giving of red packets (hong bao), it is perfectly fine to practice it as a gesture of love and care. Of course, this will certainly be a delight to the children.

What should Christians do in Chinese New Year?

The Chinese New Year provides an opportune time for us to gather and spend time with loved ones and relatives. We should treasure such time and bear a good Christian testimony before them. We can share the Gospel to unbelievers and encourage those who may have backslided in the faith to return to the Lord.

One important thing we ought to do in this new year as God’s children is to show filial piety and love to our parents. The 5th commandment exhorts us to honour our parents (Exod 20:12). A good hong bao to our parents will please them. How about a hug and to tell them how much we love and appreciate them?

Let us also never forget the goodness of the Lord in the new year by returning our tithes and offerings to the Lord from the ang pow money that we will collect. Thank God for all His blessings and also for good health to enjoy the multitude of good food in this new year.

What should Christians not do in Chinese New Year?

We must beware of some vices that crop out in the new year which can tempt us to sin against God. There will be the typical gambling session among relatives. As Christians, we take a firm stand not to gamble as it is covetous which violates the 10th commandment (Exod 20:17). How about drinking? Proverbs 20:1 tells us, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging…”  Take heed to God’s Word to abstain from wine and beer.

How about wishing each other 恭喜发财 “Gong Xi Fa Cai”? It is so common that almost everyone utters such wishes for monetary prosperity. I believe Christians should not wish each other “Gong Xi Fa Cai” as it portrays to others that our hope and aim in this life is to make more money. The Bible reminds us that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). We can wish each other good health as learned from 3 John 2 in Apostle John’s wish for Gaius. We can wish each other a happy new year to be contented in whatever we go through.

In this lunar new year, I would like to wish all readers to be filled with the joy of the Lord which is our strength (Neh 8:10).

Elder John Leong

Chinese New Year

Of all the many Chinese festivals, lunar Chinese New Year can be said to be the most widely celebrated among the Chinese populace, lasting for 15 days. Can Christians celebrate lunar CNY?  Some believe we cannot but I would say there is nothing wrong in celebrating this festivity as long as we know the difference between Chinese culture and superstition.

Chinese culture places great emphasis on filial piety and respect for its elders.  These are good practices and behaviour patterns passed down from one generation to the next which are taught in the Bible. In Ephesians 6:1-2 we read these words, “Children obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.  Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise.”  But the belief that for parents to have long life, the children must keep awake as late as possible on the eve of Chinese New Year is superstition.

The belief in the 12 animals of Chinese zodiac is also superstition and should be avoided. To believe that one’s character and future are determined by an animal depending on the year of one’s birth is not only wrong but dangerously erroneous. How would you like to be associated as being lazy and gluttonous just because you were born in the year of the pig? Or to be known as a double-tongued snake, a mischievous monkey or a timid mouse. Or you are hot tempered because you were born in the year of the tiger. Many people seemingly resign themselves to this belief-system by consciously or sub-consciously allowing themselves to be controlled by whichever animal depending on the year they were born. How foolish and irrational a person can become when brought under this belief-system!

Let us take a look at the traditional family reunion dinner which is a good practice to be observed and retained. It brings family members together for a meal and a time of interaction.  It is a time for strengthening of relationships and love. This brings to mind the parable of the prodigal son recorded in Luke 15:11-32.

In this parable, we see a father waiting and longing to be reunited to his younger son who had left home for a period of time.  When the son finally returned, he was so happy that he celebrated the reunion with a big feast. There was forgiveness, joy and restoration of family relationship. What’s past is forgotten.  Only the present and future matter.

A new year and a new beginning with new expectations and aspirations. In the midst of all the celebration, let us not lose our focus on God. Let our belief-system be guided by the Word of God and not the 12 zodiac animals. If you have strayed from God for whatever reason or reasons, may you return to Him like the prodigal son this Chinese New Year.  Make a fresh start with Christ as your Lord and Master in your life. Our God is ever so gracious and merciful to receive every repentant child back to Himself. And let us together look forward to that great day of our reunion with God in Heaven. May this Chinese New Year be a blessed time of reunion with family members and a renewal of our love and devotion to God, our Heavenly Father.

(Adapted from Calvary Tengah BP Church, Children’s Corner, 25 February 2007, Dns. Peggy Leong.)