Jan 20, 201208:44 AMChina Mom
Celebrating my daughter’s culture as best I can
The Christmas decorations may be packed away, but for kids adopted from China, the next two weeks hold special meaning. Lunar New Year – also known as Chinese New Year – is the longest and most important celebration for millions around the world. And for children from China, it’s their special time to celebrate their culture and homeland.
There’s no official handbook on how far parents of internationally adopted children are supposed to go to celebrate our kid’s birth culture, but marking Chinese New Year is usually one of those times for those of us with children from Asia.
This year is the Year of the Dragon and it begins on January 23. When our daughter was a baby we went all out. I cooked several traditional Chinese New Year’s dishes, we decorated our front doors and gave Piper red envelopes stuffed with money. We cleaned our house at the beginning of the 15-day celebration – the traditional way to get rid of all the bad luck from the past year – and hung red lanterns at the finish.
Today? We’ve downsized. We keep it simple. We go out to dinner instead – Royal Dragon has a big celebration complete with lion dances and fireworks. Nam Hai Asian Grocery also has a big celebration in their parking lot with fireworks and lion dancers. We also join our local Families with Children from China chapter for a dinner and attend Dillon International’s Lunar New Year benefit. In China, families reunite for the holiday and I like to think that these celebrations give our children a chance to reunite with their adopted Chinese “cousins.”
We read Chinese New Year books and Piper gets red envelopes filled with money. For some reason, that is the one tradition she never forgets. And we cook and clean – sorta. I don’t cook a full meal, but we try to eat more “lucky foods” like oranges, dumplings and noodles. And we still clean the house…at some point during the two-week period.
As for decorations? I usually find them around Easter and kick myself for forgetting to put them up.
As I type it out, it seems like a lot…and yet, it doesn’t seem like enough. Are dinners and lion dances and red envelopes enough to help our daughter connect with her culture and homeland?
I wonder if it’s the same thing as being in a foreign country on the Fourth of July and someone handing me a sausage tucked in a roll and an apple tart. They’re trying and they mean well, but they just don’t get it because…well, how can they?
We try to “keep China” throughout the year – not just during Chinese New Year. She attends Chinese culture and language camps and has taken Chinese since she was three. But as she gets older, I know it will be more difficult. She’s already starting to complain about wearing a traditional dress, or “qipao,” to all the New Year’s dinners – although I suspect that’s because she wants a new pink dress, as opposed to her current red one.
But pretty soon, she’ll prefer her everyday clothes to a Chinese silk dress. And one day, she’ll have a gymnastics meet that will conflict with one of these events. And slowly, but surely, her American life will supersede her Chinese culture. I guess as with everything else in her life, I can only do my best and hope that’s enough.
Now…where are those decorations?