Monday, February 15, 2010

I Don't Know the Ancient Chinese Secret

I could stand to be more Taiwanese.

Take Chinese New Year, for example. Here is everything I know about it:
  • On Chinese New Year’s Eve, you have a special dinner that must include a whole fish.
  • You must have leftovers of every dish in this meal - this represents the abundance you will have throughout the new year.
  • On Chinese New Year, you say “xīn nián kuài lè” to other Chinese people.
  • If you’re a kid, the older generation will give you red envelopes filled with cash.
Later in life, I also learned two different stories about why Rat is the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac. One from my years on KidStage, another from hereandnow.

That’s about it. It’s no surprise I don’t know more. Celebrating Chinese New Year as a child was about two things – food and family. My mother always cooked an amazing meal, whole fish and all. My sister would eat the fish eyes, which I thought was gross until I tasted them myself. Yum!

Chinese New Year also meant driving an hour to the mall to join with the few other Chinese families in the county for a potluck in the community room next to the food court. I’d get my red envelope and immediately go spend it on skee ball at the Time Out arcade. It was one of the only times of the year I saw other Asian people.

The rest of the year, my Asian community was my family. There was no Chinese school for me to attend, no Chinatown to see the lion dance, no Asian comic book stores. I played with She-Ra dolls and watched The Monkees on TV. I became a true Asian-American kid.

Now that I’m grown, food and family are still my strongest connections to my heritage. My Taiwanese is spotty and the only characters I can write are my name. But when I’m home, setting the table for another amazing home-cooked meal, I remember where I come from.

1 comment:

  1. I remember the mall pot-lucks! I was always so bewildered that there were SO many Asian people there. My experience has been very similar to yours. I wonder if it has something to do growing up where we grew up. ;-)