Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gong Xi Fa Cai & Xin Nian Meng En

by Rev. James Wong
The traditional Chinese greeting for Chinese New Year is “Gong Xi Fa Cai.” Kadazandusun, Muruts, Malays, Indians, Westerners, you name it, they all learn to greet us Chinese with these words.

Gong Xi Fa Cai can be translated to “Congratulations and be rich” or "Congratulations and be prosperous". says: “its usage dates back several centuries. While the first two words of this phrase had a much longer historical significance (legend has it that the congratulatory messages were traded for surviving the ravaging beast of Nian, although in practical terms it may also involve surviving the harsh winter conditions), the last two words were added later as ideas of capitalism and consumerism became more significant in Chinese societies around the world.”

Our society is driven by capitalism, which means, the economic system we have today is based on private ownership of capital and our economy is survived by consumerism. When there is no consumer a business dies. Our challenge today is over consumerism and we should not be too materialistic.

“Fa Cai” literary means “be rich.” Being rich is not a sin unless it is ill gotten wealth. Deuteronomy 8:18 (TEV) says: “Remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to become rich. …”

Through the years our church has coined a better greetings for the New year. It is Xin Nian Meng En which literary means, ‘New Year receive grace’, can be translated as ‘May you receive grace in the New Year’. Since the word ‘Meng En’ in the Chinese Bible is a translation of the word ’favor’, Xin Nian Meng En can comprehensively mean ’May you receive grace and favor of God in the New Year.’ Nothing is comparable to the grace and the favor given to us by God.

In our pluralistic society today, Gong Xi Fa Cai has become a unique auspicious phrase of greetings for the Chinese community in the Chinese New Year. Let us add another more meaningful greeting: Xin Nian Meng En.

While New Year is a gambling season for many to bet their luck to get rich quick, a better way is to spend time renewing our friendship and family relationships. Here is a prayer to keep our lives in perspective as far as wealth is concerned.

7 "Two things I ask of you, O LORD ; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV)

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