This week, Chinese-Filipinos – and Chinese all across the world – are preparing for the most important festival in their calendar – the Lunar New Year. It is called such because the East Asians observe a calendar based on the phases of the Moon (unlike the Gregorian and preceding Julian calendars, which are based on the Sun). What Christmas is for Christians, the Lunar New Year is to them – and there are some very interesting similarities between the two.
For the Jews who believed Christ was the Messiah, His coming into the world as God in human form heralded a new beginning for these early Christians – a new beginning in eternal life and love with the Creator. For the Chinese, the Lunar New Year is their celebration and thanksgiving that they have overcome all the trials and tribulations of the past year, and that they are ushering in the new one with wishes for prosperity and success to all.
Both stories also involve some sort of trouble. In the Christmas story, King Herod, fearful and jealous that a baby would change everything, had all baby boys in his realm up to the age of two mercilessly, indiscriminately slaughtered. But an angel had appeared to Joseph and told him to bring his family to Egypt to hide; later, after those who sought Jesus’s death were themselves dead, they returned to Nazareth. The Chinese New Year legend, on the other hand, depicted a terrible beast named Nian (年 – which is the Chinese term for year) who would, once a year, venture into the local village and make off with children for its food. Loud noises – in the form of drums and firecrackers – and the color red scared it away, though, and it never terrorized the people again. This is why we wear red clothes and light noisy firecrackers during the Lunar New Year.
In line with this is the concept of tikoy. One way of writing this in Chinese is 粘糕 – “sticky cake”. However, it is also a homonym for 年高 – “year high”, literally. This is why it is good luck among the Chinese to eat tikoy during the Lunar New Year, because it brings the hope that we only get “higher” or “taller” – in short, better and more successful – each passing year.
That the Chinese beast’s name is the term for year can also be approached symbolically. Nian, the concept of the year turned into struggles and hardships, is scared away by the united power of the villagers, and they are granted a successful year without losing anyone to Nian’s appetite – especially not the innocent. Similarly, in present times, the year ahead is very promising and bright – but it can also be looming with danger and uncertainty. However, it is more likely that we will get the success and prosperity we pray for if we work together, for the communitarian good, not just for our own self-interests.
This is the very point of CSR 3.0. We need to begin with our own human selves if we wish to change society for the better. Using business with a revolutionized business model to pursue the common good is rendered moot and hypocritical if we ourselves do not act in the interest of the common good – the whole point of our responsibility becomes useless. We ourselves should be fully alive, endowing ourselves with this passion for justice for all, and diligently, excellently, using our skills for development.
Yes, I am a Xaverian. Luceat lux… ad majorem Dei gloriam. Let your light shine… for God’s greater glory.
So, before we all bask in the grace of the lion dance, before we bite into that oozingly sweet tikoy, before we excitedly accept the hongbao (angpao) of money, let us all take a moment to reflect what the ancient Chinese did to deflect harm and danger in the legend of Nian… and how we, too, can work together to save the world.
恭喜發財！Congratulations, and may you discover wealth!