Overcoming Asian Guilt on Lunar New Year

Chinese New Year paper lantern craft

Lunar New Year is here, and I have been updating everyone about Chinese activities, books, and videos for the past month!

Yet if you come to our home, you wouldn’t know that this is an important Asian holiday.

I considered waiting for Lunar New Year to pass before sharing photos of our home.

The lack of red Chinese banners, lanterns, and other festive ornaments felt hypocritical.

While my daughter has enjoyed many Chinese New Year crafts and activities, most have been recycled or stored away.

Chinese New Year paper lanterns craft and art cart

Our unfestive Lunar New Year

In addition to auspicious decorations, Lunar New Year is about reuniting with family over delicious food.

But my parents are deceased, and my in-laws live on the other side of the United States.

This Lunar New Year, after I finished work, we continued our weekly tradition:

  • Rushing to my daughter’s dance class
  • Eating sandwiches-on-the-go, and
  • Getting the kids in bed as early as possible

Since my husband was working late at the hospital, the kids didn’t see him that night.

No authentic Chinese food here

Regardless of our schedule, I can’t cook authentic Asian dishes for the life of me.

Cooking is not my strength, in contrast to my mother who made Chinese meals from scratch every night.

Regretfully, the recipe details are hazy in my memory, though I am nostalgic for the warmth of eating together.

While I crave the occasional dim sum experience, salads and green smoothies are more my thing these days.

What about Korean traditions?

Perhaps I should keep mum about the fact that my husband and I are unfamiliar with Korean traditions for Lunar New Year.

After all, our kids have been learning 3 languages for a few years. Can we really learn language without culture?

Shouldn’t Asian people know this stuff?

Letting go of Asian Guilt on Lunar New Year

I’m relieved that other bicultural parents (Guavarama, Mandarin Mama) have opened up about their struggles with cultural identity.

I share the guilt that many Asian Americans harbor for abandoning cultural traditions, forgetting their mother tongue, or avoiding speaking with an accent.

Although I have become more comfortable with my identify (eg, speaking Chinese in public), I am Chinese American and not Chinese Chinese.

During this time of year, I have been going through the motions of preparing cultural crafts that I understand superficially.

But I see how much joy these activities bring to my daughter, and my son lights up when he feels involved, too.

We are happy with our rainbow paper lanterns, Chinese play food, and bare walls, making new family traditions.

 Minimalist home and Asian Guilt for Chinese New Year

Culture can be shared and enjoyed in many ways without the burden of guilt.

Relearning Chinese language allows me to feel connected to my parents.  We will learn our way, however unconventional it may be.

Korean food wins over my husband’s heart.  But he rarely gets to eat it, is forgiving about my culinary deficiencies, and is grateful to have food on the table.

For others, maybe anything Asian is overwhelming, and that’s okay, too.

More reassurance for bilcultural families


  1. Betty I love how the colorful crafts add color to your beautiful neutral tone furnishing. THAT is being festive to me (my house is a mess and I have no sense of interior style!). I can totally relate to the cooking somewhat… my mother makes awesome home cook meals every day while I try to get a “home”- anything on the table most nights. I am so happy to read this post and know there is another S-meal momma out there (salads, smoothies, sandwiches – aka “Super meals” in my book)! 🙂

  2. Hi Betty, I could relate to your post. I often feel like I’m not “doing enough” to reinforce my kids’ heritage. Like you, I don’t have relatives in the same state so it’s not easy for everyone to get together. I also can’t cook as authentically as my mom. So this Chinese New Year, we ordered in Chinese food. I just made sure to order the symbolic ones. I also got Chinese New Year books out of the library so the kids could learn more about the holiday. I put up a few decorations (recycled from the past) and gave out hong bao (recycled from last year, too). You do what you can, and you’re doing a great job with your kids!

    1. Hi Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience! It’s helpful to know that we aren’t the only ones experiencing the guilt, but we are all doing the best that we can! That’s wonderful that you had decorations and hong bao ready from the year prior! We save many of these from year to year, which is a nice tradition 🙂 Happy Lunar New Year!

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