Every lunar new year, I think about my kids’ experience of it. As a mother to biracial children, one of my biggest concerns is ensuring they embrace their Chinese roots. I softly sway between throwing my hands in the air and wanting to do everything to make it happen. I know that there is already so much culturally lost from my mom to me, and I know that there is just no way to fully preserve it into the next generation. Releasing expectations of that is something I work on all the time. When the culture that you’re living in is different than the one you’re trying to preserve, in some ways, it feels like swimming upstream. Of course, having my mom in our house has given us such an amazing opportunity to pass so many day-to-day things along.
This new year’s celebration was made memorable because of the timing of it. I told my husband how it was so early this year, that it felt like I was going from new year to new year. But because of the date of the holiday, my kids were able to partake in the whole process. On Martin Luther King Day last week, we all went to the Chinese market and shopped for the various grocery items we needed. Seeing my kids pinch their noses at the smelly fish section really lit up my heart. It reminded me of how I scrunched my nose and held my breath while walking through the fish stalls in Chinatown. It felt like they went through a rite of passage of sorts.
For new year’s, we have a fairly simple celebration. The main ceremonial aspect is where we set up a table of food and offerings to the gods and spirits. We light incense, burn paper money, offer wine and pay our respects while wishing and praying for health, happiness and fortune. Since my mom has lived with us, she and I usually take care of the ceremonial components at home during the day while everyone else is at school and work. It kept it manageable without little ones afoot. Because the new year fell on the weekend this year, the kids were home from school and my husband from work, and we were all able to experience it together.
At the table of offerings, we bow three times while holding the various things we are “giving” to the gods and spirits. Seeing all three kids gingerly holding a stick of incense with both hands and bowing in sync with giggles in-between each bow was one of the most beautiful things I have experienced as a parent. I think of how amazing and magical it is that traditions have been passed from ancestor to ancestor for so many generations because the passing of tradition is not a sure thing. I have many concerns of what and how I am passing things on but in that moment this weekend, I felt a little part of my heritage lived on.