Ah, Chinese New Year is almost upon us. 19 days in counting.
I used to resent the fact that I was Asian solely because learning English was exasperating and frustrating. I blamed the fact that I was a reverse parachute child and hated the fact that I didn’t speak English as a first language. I remember bawling my eyes out in first grade attempting to properly pronounce my ABCs (kindergarten didn’t feel very useful; they perpetuated play time and not enough focus on learning). For the longest time I just wanted to be white, be an American. Life would be so much easier.
Eventually I started to have this great disdain for anything that related back to my heritage, and my irritation increased when my parents decided to enroll me in Chinese class after school (eventually on Saturdays as well). The annoyance was especially prevalent during Chinese New Year. It was a dreadful every year growing up the house would be full of red paper with calligraphy Chinese characters (福) inked on it and my family bought all sorts of strange dried goods that weren’t potato chips. The only good thing that I enjoyed was getting all the 紅包/壓歲錢 with money in it. I never truly understood the meaning behind it. I didn’t understand why we celebrated, why we needed to. At the tender age of 10 I was already losing my cultural identity.
Thankfully I realized- Simply being white wasn’t the answer. I can’t go and change my face to look like someone I’m not. Luckily I stumbled upon the beauty and vibrancy of my heritage and culture a little later in high school when I traveled with a group of Mandarin speaking vagabonds (to lightly put it). I rejuvenated my native tongue for a bit and even traveled Taiwan for a few months. I am so terribly grateful that my parents made me learn Mandarin and had instilled (however small) some traditions in me. Traditions passed down from their parents, and their parents’ parents. I came to understand the nuances of Chinese traditions. To this day, I still put red envelopes under my pillow (probably only thing that stuck) the belief that my parents want to make sure I stay safe from evil spirits from the new year. In some strange spiritual sense I wanted to them to know that I was listening to their stories.
It is unfortunate to see the wave of cultural change coming like a tidal and there isn’t much that we’re doing to prevent it even though it’s as simple as teaching future gens their native language, passing down our stories, instilling an identity with Asian names and teaching them the importance of one’s culture and history of where they came from. And kids, you may hate it now but let me tell you, you’re going to love your parents for it. Being bilingual is awesome.
Will you be celebrating the lunar new year this year? Not sure what to do? Here’s list of places celebrating with great festivities going:
- Asian American Expo: $11 (Jan. 16th – 17th)
- Downtown Monterey Park: Free (Jan. 30th -31st)
- Beverly Hills, Saban Theater: Free (Jan. 31st)
- Thien Hau Temple: Free (Feb. 7th)
- Pacific Asia Museum: Free (Feb. 7th)
- City of Alhambra: Free (Feb. 13th)
- Downtown Santa Monica: Free (Feb. 13th)
- Tet Festival: $5.00 (Feb. 13th-14th)