You hear the music. You see shopping malls give out free red packets when you spend $88 dollars (terms and conditions apply). You notice the exponential increase of mandarin oranges everywhere. But perhaps most importantly (and characteristic of every Chinese New Year), you start seeing people share identical posts on your Facebook timeline that scream "DID YOU KNOW FIVE PINEAPPLE TARTS HAVE THE SAME CALORIES AS TWO BOWLS OF RICE???"
Close your eyes and picture this: You step into a supermarket, and let the familiar Dong-Dong-Dong-Qiang wash over you as you gaze wistfully at the endless rows of CNY snacks. You find yourself unable to choose between the pineapple tarts which have the pineapple paste on the tart, and the ones which have the paste inside the tart. A few minutes of quiet pondering, you've decided: You deserve BOTH - the whole family is going to eat them too, anyway. And then your eye falls on some interesting new kueh you've never seen before.
Minutes later, you're happily paying for eight containers of varying sizes, and formulating your attack plan on which bottle to tackle first. You decide to check Facebook on the way home with the available fingers that aren't carrying bottles, and... suddenly, you scroll up to see that wretched 'CNY Goodies and Their Calories' article -- shared eagerly by an aunt of yours. The very same aunt who single handedly polished off a whole bottle of pineapple tarts when she thought no one was looking last year, mind you.
You would think that the authors of these guilt-inducing factoids would know better than to put up the alarmingly unhealthy statistics of these food items annually, right? I mean, what sort of lunatic wants to know how many minutes they have to jog to burn off the love letters they had just inhaled at their grandmother's? And while it is common knowledge that CNY snacks are not the healthiest of things that represent CNY, it stops virtually no one from stacking a Jenga-like structure of containers on their coffee tables to fuel the inane chatter from visiting guests.
That said, and well aware that I may be coming across as a whiny brat, -- it isn’t difficult to see the validity behind all those CNY snack information posts: a quick google of “Chinese New Year snacks…” autocompletes the word “calories” because it's one of the top hits. Perhaps people just want to know if gorging on one more piece of Bak Kwa is worth it.
But when them posts keep appearing, and a little fear starts to sink in that you start to second-guess your third slice of kueh lapis - You may feel a small twinge of guilt as you question if your ignorance really is bliss. But this isn't a bad thing: guilt is, after all, a cognitive response to the realisation that you may have done something that you should not have. By this definition, as long as somebody stubbornly insists that he was right, he will be impervious to guilt. No amount of calories will ever push this person over the edge; pineapple tarts could have a billion calories each and he would have no qualms having ten.
So you know what. The next time you're munching on a love letter and determinedly ignoring your relatives yelling over the TV by scrolling through Facebook, and you see one of these guilt-inducing posts, SCROLL PAST IT.
You look up from your defiant scrolling away from the accusing Facebook post, and make eye contact with an aunt you’ve not seen since the last CNY. You exchange smiles, and as she takes that as a cue to walk over, you hope it does not lead a round of questions that'll make you question your existence/university degree of choice/lack of effort to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. You wonder if you should have another tart, but you also wonder if you shouldn’t. Eh. Guilt might not be so bad after all - if it can push us to make a change, or at least try and make a change.