The new year represents a renewal and celebration of the past year and correcting the mistakes of an old year. For the Asian Americans out there, they most likely celebrate more than one new year – one on January 1 with the rest of America and one around the time of February, depending on the moon. Each we hold special, but each “new year” is another symbol of our multicultural, almost mutt-like lives. On one hand, we feel an intense longing to the American’s New Year based on a western calendar. For example, I make my new years vows during this time and watch the ball drop in NYC. For my family and I, this is tradition. But, when Lunar (or Chinese) New Year rolls around, things are totally different.
Starting at least two weeks before, my family and I prepare. We invite our close friends and family (which usually totals up to around 30 people) to dinner at our house. My mom goes all out. She usually starts preparing the groceries and menu one week ahead of time. Three days before Chinese New Year, she marinates meats and begins the cooking process. The day before Chinese New Year, she is trying out new recipes and preparing for the big day. She makes sure to have all the right foods set upon the table the day of. Fish, representing knowledge, Bean Sprouts representing fast growth both mentally and physically, dumplings and sweet rice cakes representing an increase in income are all present at our table every Lunar New Year.
Not only does our family prepare for the guests to arrive at our house, but we prepare ourselves for the new year to come. We make sure our house is squeaky clean, every speck of dust is banished and every loose paper is organized into its right place. Things must be in perfect condition when New Year’s day rolls around because then, if it isn’t, the rest of the year would be filled with a messy house! My mom always told me that whatever I did on New Year’s day would be what I would do for the rest of the year.
With such culture and tradition hidden behind Lunar New Year, it represents our allegiance to our traditional Chinese culture. Yet, our heart pulls towards both directions- so much that our heart tugs and feels as if it may almost break apart. For a teenager, finding what path they want to take in life and who they really are is challenge enough but, for those of other races living in America, truly accepting and embracing both cultures is a concept that most never achieve in a lifetime.