New Years Traditions to KeepPosted January 23rd, 2012 by Serena Leung Baker
Over the holidays, I was obsessed over which traditions and family memories I wanted to share with my little boy – the food, decorations, and rituals. Now, I am starting the same thought process for the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New
Year as it we called when I was growing up, but in Chinese, we have always just called it New Year…but I digress.)
Similar to the Christmas holidays, decorations started pouring into the house weeks before and lasted until weeks later. My parents started bringing budding flowers into the house weeks before the New Year so that all the flowers would be in full bloom for the celebrations. While I enjoyed the beautiful and aromatic flowers, my favorite was the little goodie box the magically appeared on the dining room table. The goodie box was a beautiful, round lacquer box filled with yummy treats. There were things that my parents considered treats like candied ginger and pumpkin seeds. And then there were the treats that my brother and I liked – chocolate coins, starbursts, and white rabbit candies.
I also loved the ritual of wearing a new outfit on the first day of the New Year. Who doesn’t want to get a new outfit? However, I just hated that my mom always made me choose a “colorful” outfit, which always had to include red or pink. We also weren’t allowed to wash our hair or clean on the first day of the New Year. The “no cleaning” rule was obviously never a problem, nor do I think it is a problem now. But, as an image-conscious high school student, the lack of hair washing was somewhat problematic. But now, with a one-year old, a full-time job, and a long commute, quite honestly, getting to shower and shave my legs is a wonderful day at this point.
While Christmas has presents, for the Lunar New Year has “ly see,” little red envelopes filled with money. This is great as a kid (or unmarried adult) because you get a red envelope from every adult you wish a happy new year. Even non-Chinese speaking kids around here knows the phrase that pays, “Gung Hay Fat Choy”! The second part of that which we don’t often say out loud is “ly see dow loy,” meaning, give me my red envelope. The two parts rhyme in Chinese so it’s cute, but not really all that polite. Now that I’m adult, I’m supposed to give out the red envelopes. Needless to say, that’s not as fun.
This past Christmas was a bit of a reality check for my expectations on how a one year old would enjoy the Holidays. I had visions of my son bursting into laughter with a never ending smile pasted on his face as he discovered the treats in his stocking. In reality, he barely knew what was going on, so I guess that I will have to set my expectations accordingly for the Lunar New Year. We’ll worry more about learning traditions next year. In the meantime, I’ll just focus on getting my boy a new red outfit and teaching him to say “thank you” in Chinese when he gets a shiny red envelope.