A rough transcript of a conversation during an Easter mazurek/cheesecake session with family and friends:
Me: Did you go to church on Saturday to bless the food basket?
Mum of a one-year old girl: No, we plan to raise our child with as few religious traditions as possible.
Me: Not celebrating Christmas, then?
Mum of …: We’ll just observe the minimum requirement.
Me: But the Easter food baskets, some were very imaginative.
Mum of …: For some people, that’s not a form of entertainment.
“What a pity,” was what I didn’t say to her. My dad, too, wanted to raise us without the hocus pocus of religions. Thankfully, mum got her way and we had an altar at home. A sizeable one with standing room for a mixture of Taoist-Buddhist deities. I didn’t ask what they could do but knew that we had to revere the plaques for though the deities are benevolent, they can hand out hardships, too. Like the Greek and Hindu gods and demi-gods but I didn’t make this comparative study when I was a kid.
When I was a kid, behind my dad’s back, mum took us to temples on festive days. One god or another was always having a birthday. I had no idea who we were lighting the joss-sticks and oil lamps for. But I loved the noise and colours. We had temple food – not the type Gwyneth Paltrow uses for cleansing but vegetarian fares packed with sodium. I didn’t think much of the Chinese Opera troupes that set up camp on empty plots in the residential estates during the Hungry Ghosts Festival. However, I do remember and treasure the memory of my grandmother sprucing up her attire before going out to catch a live episode. My childhood would have been a lot poorer had my mother raised me with as few religious traditions as possible.