There is no good reason why I should love Lunar New Years. It’s not a holiday I grew up celebrating. It always falls on a different date, taking me by surprise, sometimes still fatigued from the December holidays. It’s also a gargantuan effort, at least the way I do it: combining the decorating of Halloween, the giving of Christmas and the cooking of Thanksgiving. But I can’t help it. I’m crazy for the Gong Hay Fat Choy (Or, if we want to get all Tet about it: the Chuc Mung Nam Moi).
Doug reminds me, when he’s feeling particularly snarky or when I’m getting overly stressed about getting my red lanterns up in time, that I’ve completely made up this holiday. He has a point (a bitchy one, but a point nonetheless). I started celebrating the Lunar New Year when we adopted our son, Ben, from Vietnam, because I wanted him to be proud of his heritage, something I decidedly never was. All the traditions we followed (opening the doors at midnight, wearing new clothes, making the dumplings) were taken from children’s books I bought for Ben. At his preschool, I became the de facto expert on the holiday, and I’ve stayed that way at his schools through the years, directing dragon parades, giving cooking demonstrations on fried wontons, orchestrating tiny lion dancers. And in our home, many other traditions, both culinary and otherwise, have stayed in place, year after year after year.
Yes, my amalgamation of different Tet/Chinese New Year traditions is largely of my own invention. (“Wait,” Doug says, “you can’t take a shower on New Year’s Day?” “…Yes…” I say, “or wait, maybe it’s you can’t cut your hair. Let’s do neither.”) Maybe it’s the fact that I have made up so much on my own that gives the holiday its appeal. Even the best holidays have a tinge of obligation to it, but this one? No one expects anything! If it happens, it’s by dint of my own love for it. My sheer enjoyment of stringing up the lanterns, making the caramel sauce riblets, handing out the red envelopes. Better still, Ben loves the holiday, too. We’ve created our own family tradition. What’s not to like about that?
And you can’t beat those dumplings.
To all my friends and family: have a healthy, peaceful, and prosperous Year of the Sheep!