Every year since I was a little kid, we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year with my mum’s family. When my late-great-grandmother was alive, we’d travel back to Taiping without fail, even after my mother passed away. But after the passing of our extended family’s matriarch, the celebrations moved to Kuala Lumpur, where my grandmother now lives with my aunt. The tradition of sitting around the dining table, enjoying a delectable spread of food, still continues.
Keeping to Tradition
Both my brother and I now have kids of our own. And, despite not spending a lot of time with my mother’s side of the family, we’ve never forgotten our Chinese roots. Although it may seem like simple and small acts of tradition, such as wearing red and giving ang pows, I do feel that it’s one way we can honour our mother’s heritage and family.
Being half Malay and half Chinese, I grew up with a more open and accepting perspective of society. I learnt at a young age to respect other religions and yet, stay true to my own. I have had some people question the dishes I eat during reunion dinners with my mum’s family. They’d be shocked to learn that my aunts and grandmother are more sensitive to this notion than I am. They’re always making sure the food served is halal. What matters most to me is being able to connect with family and enjoy one another’s company – that’s the whole essence of reunion dinners.
Being Truly Malaysian
Living together, and sharing our mixed backgrounds, truly is what makes Malaysia special. But lately, as a society, we seem more judgmental than ever. Walking into my daughter’s school and realising over 80% of the students are Malay worries me. I’m concerned that students are not being exposed to other religions and culture as I was. It feels like we are moving further away from the spirit of Malaysia, and the mutual respect that keeps us together. I worry that kids today focus too much on being a specific race or religion, so much so that they grow up to feel isolated or over-privileged because of their race.
When my kids were younger, I’d emphasize for them to respect all races and religions, and that we’re all the same. Sometimes we have bad days, and it’s not related to a specific culture or religion. We’re all humans with our own challenges.
As much as I sometimes stick out like a sore thumb at our Chinese family dinners or gatherings, I have never felt I was not part of the family. Many relatives would look at me and see my late mother’s presence in my eyes or the way I walk. So yes, I am half Malay and half Chinese, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am proud of being Malaysian and pray that our future generation will embrace the true essence of Malaysia, too. Let’s educate our kids to see beyond race and religion, and embrace each other with respect and love.
Kong Hei Fatt Choy!
Much love & respect,