Singapore Catholics go lunar in new year

11 Feb 2009

By The Record

Church in Singapore incorporates new year festival into Church life.

A lion dance troupe listens to instructions from an event official before their performance on Renri, the seventh day of the Chinese new year, in Singapore on February 1. Many Catholic parishes in Singapore, where most Catholics are Chinese, decorate their churches and participate in other traditions related to the lunar new year. Photo: CNS/Tim Chong, Reuters



























SINGAPORE (CNS) – The Catholic Church in Singapore, where most Catholics are Chinese, has incorporated the lunar new year festival into Church life.
The Asian Church news agency UCA News reported that during the 15-day celebrations many parishes decorate their church with red banners. Blessed oranges also are distributed during special Masses held on January 26, the beginning of the lunar new year this year. The Chinese regard red as an auspicious colour and oranges as a symbol of good fortune.
Fr Stanislaus Pang, a diocesan priest, pointed out the spiritual aspects of the celebration. “During the Chinese new year Mass, we give thanks to God for the gift of the new year and also for the gift of Chinese culture,” he told UCA  News.
“The distribution of oranges, which are produce of the earth, is symbolic of the Father bestowing his blessings upon us for the new year.
Many Chinese parishioners also give the priests in their parish “hong bao,” Chinese red envelopes containing money.
This year, at the Church of St Bernadette, the custom also took a new form. Special red envelopes were distributed at Masses for parishioners to donate money to their church renovation fund.
For the festival, Catholic bookshops also sell specially printed “hong bao” bearing biblical phrases. If the new year period coincides with the start of Lent, as it did in 2008 when the eve of the lunar new year coincided with Ash Wednesday, the Archbishop has permission from the Vatican to allow Catholics to fast and abstain on another day instead. Many Chinese hold family reunion dinners on that night.
But the heightened spirit of family and community is not as strong as it once was, according to a news report in The Straits Times.
The English-language daily said the lunar new year is still widely celebrated among the Chinese here, but many young people are losing interest in it because of weakening family ties and the feeling that such customs are old-fashioned.