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Experiences

The Struggle Of Lunar New Year When You’re Mixed Race

Growing up biracial has been something I’ve never fully been able to come to terms with. My mom is Chinese and immigrated to Canada from Singapore when she was in university, while my dad is your typical born-and-raised Canadian from the “island” (aka Prince Edward Island, Canada). They fell in love and had two children: my older sister and I. When I was growing up, it was always hard for me to know which race I identified with

I grew up primarily with my dad, since my mom was away for work for the majority of my childhood. With that, I never really had the chance to learn a lot about my Asian heritage. My household was predominantly white functioning, which left little room for connection to the other side of me. Don’t get me wrong, though — I love my dad and everything he did for me during my childhood. But there’s always been a part of me that wished I could have embraced my Asian heritage more. When Lunar New Year comes around each year, it always makes me feel a bit guilty about my lack of knowledge of Asian culture

Around each Lunar New Year, I have a bit of an identity crisis. I never really know how to fully identify with that side of myself. When I surround myself with my other Asian friends and they talk about their home life, a lot of what they refer to feels unfamiliar to me. It’s not that I’ve ever tried to be ignorant about being half Asian, it’s just that I didn’t have the same experiences they did growing up. 

It’s hard for me to know where I fit in, considering I’m neither fully white nor fully Asian. I barely look Asian, both my first and last names aren’t of Asian origin, and since I was surrounded by predominantly white people in my childhood rather than Asian people, it was difficult for me to connect on that level with my mom. I wanted to be able to give back to her after assimilating to Canadian life for so many years, but it just felt like I couldn’t.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve been fortunate enough to live with two Asian girls who have taught me more about Asian culture. One of them is also biracial, too, which means she can relate to a lot of my experiences. I’ve learned more Cantonese words from my roommates, and have been able to diversify my food palette by eating different kinds of Asian food that I’ve discovered to enjoy. Being surrounded by them has helped incorporate more of my Asian heritage into my everyday life. 

Overall, I think that even though I wasn’t able to learn too much about my Asian heritage from my mom, I’m still able to learn it from the people around me. It’s never too late to embrace all sides of your identity and culture. And with that, happy Lunar New Year!

Sabrina Bernard

Queen's U '25

Sabrina is currently in her second year at Queen's University studying English Literature.