Unexpected Blessings in a Covid-19 CNY

Dear NLC family, blessed new year! Happy NIU year! I am so grateful that God has kept all of us safe and blessed us during this year’s unusual Chinese New Year.

Stay Safe
There is an old Teochew saying: “Safety is a big profit”, which means staying safe every day is more precious than making lots of money. At the beginning of this year, I felt immensely touched by this old saying from my mother that has accompanied me for decades. Young people may not have such a strong connection. But our resilient older generation who survived the war and the pre-independence era can understand how precious it is to be alive. “Being safe and sound is good enough” – our seniors know how to let go of gains and losses of their worldly possessions. Similarly, they know how to live with peace and serenity in this challenging time, just as James 4:15 says: “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” Praise the Lord! Brothers and sisters, let us continue to learn the spiritual lesson of “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” and thrive through the pandemic. Having said that, it is not easy to learn. Let us encourage each other not to dwell on the past, but to work hard for the beautiful hope that lies ahead.

Stay Well
The Year of the Rat was finally over, we thought we could usher in the Year of the Ox with bustle and excitement. But that’s simply not the case. Anyway! We take things as they come, adhering to the new guidelines and embracing the new normal. Many families with more than eight people had carefully arranged separate tables in groups of eight for reunion dinner in the same restaurant. According to government regulations, multiple table bookings from different households were not allowed. There was no choice but to eat reunion dinners separately. Yet, these measures are put in place for our own good. Moreover, shouting of auspicious phrases during Lohei has been banned due to the risk of spreading Covid-19. Thankfully, some smart people have created Lohei apps! By tapping various Chinese phrases on the phone screen, recordings of traditional auspicious exclamations will be played. They are available in dialects too! It is so interesting and innovative.

Stay Simple
This Chinese New Year, there were no drop-ins, no get-togethers, no crowded scenes. The Covid-19 pandemic has upended long-held traditions. Still, we give thanks for our thoughtful government as we know that the tightened measures are for the best of us all. CNY visits are limited to 2 other households; visitors per household are capped at 8 per day. In pre-Covid-19 days, we had fully-packed schedules on the 1st and 2nd days of CNY. After only sitting for a while, we had to get up and go to another household. At night, the whole family dragged their tired bodies home, unable to experience the fun of celebrations. This year is different. Though CNY atmosphere has been dampened a bit, we did not have to visit too many households and even had time to rest at home. Besides, we bought fewer CNY goodies. Unlike previous years, it took us two months to finish all cookies and pastries. We saved a lot of Red Packets too! Staying simple is an unexpected blessing!

In short, the pandemic has disrupted our familiar CNY celebrations, but it also brings us many blessings. The biggest benefit is that the pandemic forces us to slow down and reduce unnecessary burdens, allowing us to appreciate the blessings of simplicity and stillness. May this Chinese New Year of the Ox grant us greater tenacity and resilience as we continue to learn, adapt and grow. Let us live each day well and thank the Lord for the unexpected blessings!

Elder Boon Teck