Sunday, February 18, 2007

Selamat Taon Baru Babi!

We have just come back from the annual Peranakan Mass at Holy Family Church. This is the second time we have gone for the mass and I must say I rather enjoy the experience - the sight of the ladies all dressed in their beautiful sarong kebaya, the strong vigorous singing of the choir, and the challenge of following a mass said in the peranakan patois.

Singapore nonyas and babas speak "Baba Malay", a mixture of pasar Malay and Hokkien. It is fairly rudimentary Malay, but my Malay is pretty basic. So I can read the words in the mass book fairly easily, and with a little more effort, I can make out the meanings of the mass proper (knowing the English version helps). I probably paid far more attention to every word spoken, every word read than I do normally when every word is so familiar to me. But the readings were difficult to make out, and the sermon more so.

Except of course, Father Alfred Chan, the celebrant, started off his sermon with how the Perankans love the pig. Indeed, we do. It is in our babi assam, babi pongteh, babi chin, bak kwa, bak chang and so on. Of course we also love our ham and bacon. I got that bit. But then he started talking about loving one's enemy and he lost me there :-)

The congregation in the church was fairly large, considering - the pews facing the main altar were filled and about half of the pews next to the choir. I felt a little sad that I was not properly attired. I don't have a sarong kebaya and didn't want to wear a cheongsam. So the only piece of nonya clothing I wore were my beaded shoes! Perhaps by next year I will get my act together and buy myself a kebaya.

The mass ended with the singing of Auld Lang Syne (in patois of course) and the distribution of oranges. After mass, everyone gathered around Father Chan to wish him a Happy New Year and so on. (Father Chan spent a long time in Holy Family parish so he has a lot of friends here.) People stay around to greet each other and to exchange new year greetings. And that is another aspect of the mass I like - the more intimate, community spirit prevailing throughout..

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