CNY – A festival for all

In this Covid-19 era, the opportunity to celebrate a festival has turned into a ‘competition’ for certain quarters.

There are those who argue why the rules seem to be relaxed for certain festivals despite the fact that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) are drawn based on the health situation at a particular time.

Most Malaysians, however, appreciate the rich cultures and traditions of their fellow citizens. They enjoy and celebrate Hari Raya, Deepavali, Hari Gawai and Christmas in their own way.

Twenytwo13 speaks to Malaysians who tell us why every festival – including Chinese New Year tomorrow – is an important occasion for them.

Sylvester Navaratnam, 60, retired banker, Kuala Lumpur

“Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we enjoyed everyone’s company and we mingled freely. These days, the situation is not like it used to be and I believe the politicians, through their policies, have played a big role in dividing us.

There are still many of us who welcome and embrace each other. I hope more efforts will be made to unite Malaysians. We must appreciate and learn the customs and practices of all Malaysians. Gong Xi Fa Cai!”

Muhammad Yunus Zakariah, 40, founder and managing editor of Bahas Bola, Kemaman

“Festivals are a form of expression that celebrate the wonderful heritage, culture and tradition of the respective community. It is the time when families and friends revel with one another.

Festivals are not only necessary to the social fabric but also play an important role in connecting people of different cultures and traditions. Festivals like Chinese New Year provide people the opportunity to understand, appreciate and embrace one another.”

Ashley Elise Anak Protasi, public relations account executive, 25, Petaling Jaya

“I believe that patriotism instilled in each Malaysian has made us appreciate and see the importance of celebrating all festive occasions in Malaysia throughout the year.

Every festival of different religions has its significance and uniqueness. Therefore, it is important to keep traditions alive, even if things are done differently this year to comply with the SOPs, with family gatherings done through video calls instead of face to face.

Traditions are why every festival in Malaysia should be celebrated and honoured. I always look forward to celebrating Gawai back in my hometown Kapit, Sarawak where my grandma would lead the ngajat dance.

Now, living in Selangor, I understand more about other widely celebrated occasions in West Malaysia. There will always be a fond memory of each festival and kept close to the heart.”

Pipa Arbee, 45, freelance writer, Shah Alam

“Festive seasons give me a chance to get together with my family. We are so often busy with life, the moments we share when everyone can get together is special.

In any case, most Malaysians are mixed in ethnicity that there is always a family member or close friend from a different race or religion to share in celebrating what is important to them.”

Jairajdev Singh, 16, student, Kuala Lumpur

“It would be the joy that is shared between everyone during the festive season whether it’s Hari Raya, Deepavali, Hari Gawai, Christmas or Chinese New Year. And the great food is a plus point too!”

Shafiqa Ameera Shamshul Kamal, 34, architect, Bangsar

“The many festivals symbolise togetherness for Malaysians. It is a time for us to be with the people we love and to always remember our religion, tradition and heritage.

Chinese New Year is also a celebration for me as I work with colleagues who celebrate the festival. It also means more discounts and sales during the festive season!”

P. Kuganeswari, 46, former national athlete, Subang

“Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country. It is important for every festival to be celebrated by all as a way to foster unity among Malaysians of all races.”

Datuk M. Ali, 67, Bukit Bandaraya residents’ association adviser, Kuala Lumpur

“Malaysia is unique and we pride ourselves in being truly Asia. But this slogan should be embraced daily and not just amplified for commercial gains.

Fair-minded Malaysians should not play to the tune of those who divide us and should be sensible in embracing our fellow Malaysians, including their celebrations.”

Dennis H. Wong, 41, utility company executive, Kuching

“This is what makes Malaysia, Malaysia. Deep down in every Malaysian, everyone just wants to share the joy and be grateful with the celebrations we have all year long.

Being Malaysian is about embracing and respecting the diversity that makes us blue, yellow, red and white, Malaysians.

To think the festival that does not represent your color or your creed is like living in the ancient days of tribes. Malaysians are diverse and that’s who we are, so that makes all the festivals as important as who we all are.”

Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos, 62, senior lawyer, Kuala Lumpur

“The unique feature of Malaysia is its diversity of colours and creed. The fact that these festivities are celebrated by all ethnicities, regardless of what festival, is a testimony to the world that Malaysians have the capacity to embrace humanity.

It is also a constant reminder to ourselves that life is full of different colours and that our experience of life becomes much more wholesome when we celebrate those colours happily.

The festivities, including Chinese New Year, also remind us that differences in perceptions of life are more a cause for celebration and unity than a baseless fear of others.”

Steffi Sarge Kaur, 32, footballer, Subang

“I celebrate most of the festivals as my parents are of mixed parentage (Punjabi, Chinese and Siamese).

I think all the festivals we celebrate in Malaysia are important because this is what Malaysia is about – unity in diversity.

Malaysia is a multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society. As for Chinese New Year, it’s a grand festival for Malaysians to celebrate but because of the pandemic now, we have to be mindful of the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Rashid Salleh, 49, Malaysia Mixed Martial Arts Association president, Kuala Lumpur

“It’s a crucial reminder that we co-exist in a country that has cultural diversity, a unique trait of Malaysia. It’s an endearing flaw that other countries are envious of.

We should be celebrating that togetherness through our festivities as we have done in the past. That was what made us a proud nation.”

Muhammad Karl Iskandar Nunis Muhammad Khairy Nunis, 29, assistant producer, Kuala Lumpur

“Malaysia is home to several ethnicities who practise various cultures and religions. As they say, ‘Malaysia is truly Asia’. We embrace each other’s cultures because we identify as one, so Chinese Yew Year has become part of who we are, even if we don’t personally celebrate it.”

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