Come December, many of us around the world celebrate Christmas, or at the very least acknowledge this festive occasion one way or another. This includes my Chinese-Malaysian family for as long as I can remember.
No one in my immediate Asian family goes to church or follows the faith Christianity. We’ve never put up a Christmas tree at home. Never went caroling. But when I was a kid growing up in Australia, my parents wrapped presents for me and my brother in the lead up to Christmas day. They did pretty much the same when we later lived in Malaysia and Singapore – among other things too around this time of the year.
Not all of us commemorate the history behind Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ but still get into the spirit of this season. Different cultures around the world have different ways of celebrating or spending it, or even similar ways of celebrating.
I grew up in a traditional-minded Chinese Malaysian household and am no stranger to Asian superstitions. My mum is a big believer in them, believing there are lucky Chinese numbers and that keeping pet turtles slows down fortunes, for instance. I always wonder why.
As Asians, many of us are respectful. We believe in the spiritual, believe fate controls our destiny: anger ghosts or spirits floating around and they may curse a dose of bad luck upon us. My parents pray at temples for luck at the start of every Chinese New Year. My relatives have small shrines in their homes, and and never fail to put an even number of mandarins – usually lucky eight mandarins – at the front as offerings to the gods.