THE Horse gallops off at midnight for the Goat to make its grand entrance. We must be the only country in the world where so many different calendar years are celebrated. And we should rejoice in that.
Today, most of those who celebrate Chinese New Year will take part in the traditional reunion dinner, a time of reflection and thanksgiving as family members return to their hometowns.
It is interesting to note that many of the traditions of the various races passed down by their ancestors have been transformed into unique Malaysian practices that are also subsequently shared by others.
Firecrackers and fireworks are no longer the monopoly of the Chinese community, and even the ang pow shows up, in different colours, at the festivals of the other communities.
Today is also Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. For those of the Christian faith, this 40-day season leading to Easter Sunday is a time of penance, reflection and fasting.
Most Malaysians tend to focus on the major festivals as a time of celebration. Some may even forget the original rituals behind a particular festival.
It is just as important to understand their significance because there have been occasions when confusion arise because certain celebrations are themed religious when they are simply cultural or commercial.
But we should all rejoice in the open house, a truly Malaysian tradition which allows all of us to celebrate with one another whatever our faith, our ethnicity, and even our political beliefs.
When we come together, we are reminded, once again, that Malaysia’s most priceless asset is our “peace and harmony”.
It is an asset that we must guard with great care because careless words and actions can jeopardise harmony and good relations among the races.
As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said in his Chinese New Year message, the diversity that makes our country extraordinary is woven by the various ethnicities, languages and faiths.
“It is this diversity that we celebrate, cherish and protect,” he said.
But we have seen in recent times how an insensitive remark here and there, or the tarring of a whole community with the same brush, can lead to unnecessary tension.
Former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi put it so clearly in the interview with Sunday Star (Feb 15), when he stressed the need for moderation:
“We must always think about how to get the people together, because we are all in this ship, and we must make sure our ship does not sink.
“We cannot think, for example, that only the Malays have a place here and others do not, so goodbye to them. No such thing. We all are in this together.”
Pak Lah referred to Mahatma Gandhi, about how “honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress”.
The key here is that we must be honest and fair in our arguments. We can disagree without being disagreeable. And most important of all, we should not play the racial or religious card to gain the upper hand.
Festive occasions such as Chinese New Year provide opportunities for us to discard our differences and focus on the fact that we are all in the same boat. And we should all row in the same direction, through good or bad weather, or risk the boat sinking. The STAR Home News Opinion the STAR says 18 Feb 2015