Like any other occasion society celebrates, Chinese New Year and its festivities are observed in a variety of ways, and within an spectrum of belief intensity. It has a whole host of different traditions, customs, and practices - nuances that build the very foundations of what it is for.
Resolutions, for that matter, hold importance in Chinese New Year’s festivities not so much for new-year-new-me pledges and self-devised commitments, as it is for consistently thematic wishes of prosperity, happiness, and good health.
Justin Lao Tembresa, a Chinese studies life-long learner and enthusiast, suggests that New Year’s resolutions are more of a Western concept. He maintains that if there’s any semblance between these resolutions and its Chinese New Year practice, it would have to be the gesture of ‘wishing.’
“The closest thing to new year's resolutions for us is that we always hope to be healthier, happier, as well as to earn and save up more money for the coming year,” explained Justin, who has spent time working with researchers from the National University of Singapore in studying contemporary Filipino-Chinoy communities.
This is reflected customarily, he explains, through the manner in which greetings are expressed.
“(Because of this) there are many popular greetings of wishing each other the best in these aspects of life,” he added.
恭喜发财, or Gōngxǐfācái, possibly the most popular of these greetings, means “congratulations” and “may you be more prosperous.” Other similar interpretations of this greeting make mention of financial stability, good fortune, good wealth, and happiness.
Further explaining the nuance behind CNY resolutions, Justin suggests that the act of changing for the better is believed in Chinese culture as something that can be done more regularly than just a once-a-year phenomenon.
“I like to think that the reason why we don't have much of this (New Year’s resolution) in Chinese culture is that we can always choose to do better each day throughout the year,” he said. “(It is) always the same theme! But the nature of them being resolutions is somewhat debatable, more like general well wishes for the entire year,” added Justin, who’s a former president of a Chinoy student leaders-led non-governmental organization (NGO).
A celebration filled with well wishes for the year ahead and gratitude for what has been, Chinese New Year’s core essence remains steadfast - the gathering of a healthy, prosperous, and close-knit family.
“We all wish for a more prosperous year each time we celebrate CNY - more money, more prestige, more success, but at the core of it all is our value for the family,” elaborated Justin.
“Family takes centerplace.”