February 15, 2018

It’s the season of ebullient reds and gold, a festive period where joyful excess in food, drink and money is celebrated. Here are a few ways to spend your time and thought this Lunar New Year, and enjoy the cheery hubbub and buzz with greater mindfulness.

FOOD: Nothing warms the soul quite like good food does, and no one knows that better than Singaporeans. Chinese New Year here is frequently a series of gatherings with friends and loved ones around dining tables, every one of them laden with steaming dishes of rich delicacies. But much as we might wish, one cannot subsist on a diet of abalone and bak kwa alone. As we toss yu sheng “salads” (that only seem to get larger and fancier every year) with playful, boisterous calls of Huat Ah! for prosperity,  don’t forget to put a little more fibre and thought into your diet, by taking the time to peel a tangerine.

Spend 5 minutes to even an hour of the long weekend taking the time to enjoy a mandarin orange by yourself. Immerse yourself in the meditative calm of the process by paying full attention with all of your senses to look at, smell, feel and taste the fruit, at each stage of the process. Every moment of focused attention holds within it refreshing peacefulness and the opportunity to regroup and centre your person in a socially-demanding season. Best enjoyed with a cup of fragrant tea (Oolong, anyone?), and a healthy dose of self-awareness.

FRIENDS & FAMILY: Take the time to pay attention to a friend or relative that one might not meet regularly. It could even perhaps be a family member that you see and interact with daily. Renew your appreciation of them by pausing to start a conversation you otherwise might not have.

Whether the gathering you’re at is much looked forward to (or not), and its people welcome (and also, quite possibly not), make it a judgement-free exercise whether it is in your words, thoughts and actions. Ask the kind of questions you might of a friend or well-regarded advisor, make good eye contact and listen actively before responding to what they’re saying, keeping in mind that the focus should be on them and not you.

Not every conversation has to be in-depth—besides being a start to understanding and appreciating someone better, polite small talk can be enjoyable too. Firm favourites from around the coffee table include asking about their travels, favourite music or shows, recipes for homemade treats and yes, the weather.

Be patient, enunciate well, speak in short sentences and don’t yell if they are elderly and hard of hearing—nobody likes to be patronised. The elderly possess a trove of experience and knowledge to be shared, and great topics include asking about their family, interests in sports and hobbies, jobs they had, world events they experienced and even simply, what their life was like when they were your age.

MONEY: Whether you’re giving or receiving, red packets are an excellent way to bring greater meaning to the holiday. Traditionally given as blessings for the new year, take the time to write a meaningful message or quote that you’d like to share on each and every angbao to be given. It’s also a great opportunity to convey a message of appreciation and thanks to those you live and work with.

Angbao “collectors”: this is a great opportunity to pass on the goodwill, by pooling together what you receive to make a donation to a charitable cause you care for.

Tipping well is also a great way to include those working through the holiday (e.g. drivers, servers and security guards) in your good fortune.

Have a festive Lunar New Year 2018, one rich in personal growth and overflowing with meaningful moments, large and small.