Monday, February 15, 2010

China Girl.

Valentine’s Day and the Lunar New Year fell on the same day this year, which we celebrated as a two-in-one holiday special at our house. The morning began with purple heart pancakes (as in, My Guy couldn’t find red food coloring so he came up with the next best thing, although please don't ask me why he decided he wanted colored pancakes; we also didn’t have any heart-shaped molds, so he formed each one by hand, which I think made them all the more special). Then we hung Chinese paper lanterns in the living room, much to the Little Miss’ delight – one more thing she could point to (“where’re the lanterns?”) and we dressed her up in traditional Chinese samfu in celebration of this auspicious occasion. We also gave her a hong pao (red envelope with money), which she pranced around with all day, occasionally caressing curiously at her shiny new garb. In the end, I kept the money, with a mental I.O.U. What would she do with it now anyway, other than tearing it to pieces or stuffing it in her mouth? Finally, we ended the evening with simple homemade Chinese food—noodles, her favorite—and heart-shaped cookies.

This is vastly different from the Chinese New Year I grew up with, where we had a big family reunion dinner on the eve and feasted on a myriad of elaborate dishes, family-style. On the next morning, there would be deafening firecrackers to start the new year off with a bang, followed by hong pao distribution. We would also have an open house, where non-Chinese friends and family (my mom’s side, all Indians) came to visit and eat with us throughout the day. It was always a boisterous, raucous event, where gambling was the norm (black jack was our favorite—I joined the adults from the time I could place my own bets with my hong pao loot. My family had no qualms about taking money from a 10-year old). The open house would last a couple of days, and for the next two weeks, we would take turns visiting relatives’ homes. “Today is Tai Pak/Big Uncle’s house, tomorrow we’re going to Yee Pak/Second Uncle’s.” My dad had seven siblings, hence the long, drawn-out affair. But kids enjoyed visiting different homes just so they could amass hong paos and compare their haul at the end. And who could forget those delectable pineapple tarts? Those were the days...

That is the Little Miss’ heritage. Sadly, she will probably never know the Chinese New Year of my youth. But as my gift to her, we will have our own traditions, combining old rituals with new, which we will create together as a family. Our celebrations may not be loud, and it will mostly be void of relatives jostling for a spot at the card table, but they will always be special. It’s times like these that I used to ache with homesickness. But that has changed. 

Now, nestled comfortably between my guy and my girl, I am home. 


  1. That is absolutely precious :)

  2. That outfit is darling!
    The tradition of your family reminds me of my stay in Mauritius. After the new year, everyone goes and visits family for about a straight week as well. It was so nice to witness family tradition, even though I sat in the sitting room nodding and waiting for the few phrases that would pass in English.

  3. What a great spot you have here and a gorgeous daughter. I look forward to you joining us for I Love! Email me at mnyoungones [at} gmail [dot] com and I'll send you the button. I am so looking forward to getting to know you better through your blog!

  4. My mom is Asian (and had 7 siblings, too), but New Year to us was mostly her cooking some special treat she remembered from her childhood. I love that you continue to make this special for your family. Which makes me consider making it special for my daughter, too, even though she is only a quarter Asian. It would be a small nod to her heritage, but one that could be made special and memorable. Thanks for the inspiration. :-)

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    Kerry, I can't wait to start the I Love! series. Again, awesome idea.

    My mom instilled in me a really strong sense of pride in my heritage, from knowing my mother and father tongue to cooking the cuisine. Now that I'm alone in this New World, I more than ever am desperately holding on to my heritage, hoping that by sharing what I remember/love with my daughter, it will be preserved through her as well. She may only be HALF-Asian, but I'd like her to be able to take FULL pride in it.