Lunar New Year is here, and I have been bombarding everybody with Chinese activities, books, and videos for the past month! 😛 Yet if you come to our house, 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.
Our unfestive Lunar New Year
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 quickly as possible. Since my husband was on call at the hospital, the kids didn’t get to see him that night.
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. And while I crave the occasional dim sum experience, salads and smoothies are more my thing these days.
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 these languages for a few years. Shouldn’t Asian people know this stuff?
Letting go of Asian Guilt on Lunar New Year
Coincidentally, my bicultural blogger friends (Guavarama and Mandarin Mama) shared timely reflections about cultural identity. Many Asian Americans harbor guilt for abandoning cultural traditions and forgetting their mother tongue. Though 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, 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 and bare walls, making new family traditions.
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’s 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.