Monday, February 8 is the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, a holiday which holds great importance in my family. This year marked the year of the monkey in a festival that signifies rebirth and hope for future wealth and longevity.
Despite its name, the beginning of Chinese New Year is celebrated widely throughout the world, including here in the Bay Area, which is inhabited by more than half a million Chinese people. Although I am physically far away from my Asian roots, growing up in Silicon Valley has allowed me to celebrate Chinese New Year and create valuable memories with my friends and family.
Growing up, I have always looked forward to Chinese New Year because of the food and festivities. My favorite part of the celebration was receiving the “hong bao,” or red envelopes from my grandparents, usually filled with candy and money. Starting when I was two years old, I dressed up in traditional Chinese or Korean garments to bow to my parents and grandparents. After I correctly recited a blessing to them, I received my red envelope and tore it open to discover the treats inside.
Some of my fondest memories include spending time with my brother and cousins on Chinese New Year and bragging about how much money we received. After we had taken inventory of our loot, we would rush to the table to gorge ourselves with red bean buns and moon cakes. The kids split off from the adults and we had competitions to see who could eat the most moon cakes (it was usually me).
Once we had filled up on Chinese New Year snacks, my least favorite part of the holiday began: the dreaded picture taking (I thought I was doing my parents a favor by dressing up in the Chinese New Year outfits and did not take kindly to being recorded in them).
After consuming a lot of sugar, I was incapable of sitting still and my parents chided me for my conscious attempts to ruin every picture. While my brother and cousins possessed photogenic qualities that I could never grasp, I would purposefully blink or turn away from the camera. Nevertheless, despite my animosity toward this element of the celebration, I look back on previous Chinese New Years with nostalgia.
In my childhood, Chinese New Year gave me the opportunity to make memories with my family. Through my antics, I connected with my extended family and sought to spend more time with these people who I associated with my happy memories.
As I have grown older, I continue to look forward to this holiday, but for different reasons. Looking back on my childhood memories of the holiday, I no longer await the food and gifts, but instead anticipate the time I will spend with my family. At this point in my life, I cherish any chance I get to talk to my grandparents, who live in Malaysia and Korea, whether in person or over video chat.
Over the course of my lifetime, Chinese New Year has shaped my relationships with my family and instilled in me a strong sense of devotion toward my loved ones. Though my expectations of the holiday have changed, I continue to enjoy Chinese New Year.