How Much is Enough for Lunar New Year?

When I met my husband on the first day of medical school, the first question he asked was, “Are you Korean?” I said, “Um…no…,” rolled my eyes so hard in my mind, and assumed he was one of those people super into Asian culture. I certainly was not…

But every time I ran into him, I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and he was obviously head-over-heels for me – ha! He ended up being the first Asian guy I dated, and I realized I had carried a lot of stereotypes and judgment. He was really cool, and funny, and we had so much in common. Hours of studying were filled with laughter, pizza, and talking about life.

You know how the story goes: we got married and had kids. Along the way, I began to learn Chinese with my children, and my kids learned Korean when we used to have a nanny.

Try this: 10+ Ways to Find a Language Teacher for Your Child

Turns out, my husband was the one who’s VERY lax about culture and language. He is comfortable with himself, understands his limits, and feels zero guilt for things out of his control.

Last year, when I was grieving over our kids’ rapid loss of Korean, he said, “Why? I don’t feel bad, so why should you?” He knows he’s doing enough, that we’re both doing more than enough.

I struggle with enoughness.

No matter how hard I try or how much my Chinese language skills have improved, I feel like an outsider. I am trying to teach my kids about a culture that feels intangible with my parents in Heaven. I can’t recreate my mother’s recipes, and my parents’ stories are harder to remember each passing day.

Related: A Letter to My Parents: Why I’m Teaching Your Grandchildren Chinese

Meanwhile, my in-laws call and email us every year with a brief refresher on Korean Soellal 설날 customs. We usually don’t integrate these customs when they’re on the other side of the country.

So, this post came with the self-imposed pressure to show something for the Lunar New Year: crafts and books my kids enjoyed. They are important to know and share, and you can read more about Korean Lunar New Year activities and Chinese New Year crafts here.

I’m aware of the responsibility I have for representation in this corner of the internet. In that vein, I need to use that privilege to say that:

  1. Most of us are doing more than enough.
  2. Culture is dynamic and looks different for every family.

Your family’s intimate connections matter more than a nation’s Lunar New Year festivities, no matter how simple your traditions or whether or not you speak other languages.

If you still aren’t convinced, think of my husband. His only regular Korean words are 방귀 (fart) and 똥 (poop)! He never posts on social media because he doesn’t need approval for who he is or what he does. Instead, he focuses on spending the little free time and energy doing ordinary things with us.

We are enough, just as we are.

More bilingual parenting reflections

One Comment

  1. Christina says:

    I just found your website last week while searching for Chinese New Year activities to do with my children in homeschool. Your pages are very informative and cover a broad spectrum of information and ideas. I have loved all the crafts you shared as well as your more personal posts like this one. Thank you for sharing! I began following you on instagram and am excited to learn more about your culture and being a multilingual family. We only speak English so to hear your perspective is very cool.

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