Celebrating The Lunar New Year: My Family’s Traditions

Every year, I celebrate the coming of the New Year twice; once on January 1st with everyone when the ball drops, and again at the end of January through the middle of February, when the lunar calendar flips a page onto the New Year. The first celebration for me is albeit a little boring at times. It seems like an informal holiday that does not really look like the bright lights and performances aired on television. But the second New Years’ celebration always excites me, involving family, food and red envelopes.

Every year, my family celebrates twice. My mom’s side of the family celebrates on New Year's Eve, always with dumplings. Then my dad’s side of the family celebrates at a Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park.  And at the end of both meals, I am given a reminder of the one phrase I know perfectly in Chinese (恭喜發財 新年快乐) and I receive the crisp red envelopes.  

As a little kid, I remember dressing up in traditional Chinese wear, mián'ǎo, with my sister.  Pink when we were really young, then red when we got older. From elementary school to middle school, my sister and I would also usually participate in a traditional Chinese dance performances.  

I remember red envelopes with money and red envelopes with chocolates. I remember meals of long life noodles and watermelon juice with boba (which I swear is great). I remember family traditions and superstitions. I remember a mad rush to buy shoes before the New Year clocked in because for one month after, to avoid bad luck, we don’t buy new shoes.  But this year, as we turned the calendar to the next lunar new year, the year of the pig, for the first time, I wasn’t home for the red envelopes and homemade dumplings.  And for the first time in a while, I missed being home. I missed the dumplings and the red envelopes, and I missed being with my family. I stayed in the dorms as the lunar new year came and went on like any other day.  Last weekend, though, here on the Hill, the Association of Chinese Americans (ACA) hosted their own Lunar New Year festivities. I went with my roommates to eat white rabbit candy, my favorite, and make origami cranes, which I still can’t do very well. We watched performances and took cheesy photos in the photo booth.  

It was fun and I liked celebrating the New Year with my new friends, but I missed my family’s traditions and the homemade dumplings. This year, when the lunar new year passed, I didn’t have to lay down from eating too many dumplings and I didn’t practice my favorite Chinese phrase, but I still celebrated the start of 2019 with friends and festivities (and I’ll still be sure to get my red envelopes, too).