Though Chinese New Year is certainly not as important for me as it is for my parents, it is regardless, a time to reflect. My parents grew up in Vietnam in poverty, but Chinese New Year was a time to celebrate. Every year around this time, my Dad reminiscences about how his Mother would buy him a new set of clothes to wear on New Year’s Day.
He told us that on New Year’s Eve, he would sneak into the bedroom, open the clothes cupboard, and just look at his new set of clothes. He would admire how neatly they were sitting there, folded and placed with loving care, for him to put on for the special day. I get this aching feeling in my chest when I hear him tell the story, because I’ve ever had that kind of reverence for anything.
My own memories of Chinese New Year were of good food and of many different relatives which I only saw once a year. What stood out most, however, were the red envelopes each of these relatives had to give me. I was always ready, with a smile on my face, positioned for a bow, ready to voice “Happy New Year!” as I hold out both hands ready to collect the goods. When getting one l would carefully open the envelope and take quick look the amount. “How much did he give you?”, I’d whisper to my friend, as we hovered over our cash.
I still get these envelopes at the age of 26. The tradition is that married couples are to give them out to unmarried individuals. It was a weird moment, as a self-sufficient adult, getting a red envelope from my married cousin this year. But then I watched my married father give his 50-something cousin a red envelope and didn’t know what to think. I don’t really know what it means to be an adult, but I don’t feel like being married would make me feel any different than I feel now. I think that we are all children at heart–we just want to play, take a nap, and enjoy our day. We are afraid that someone will realize that we’re actually imposters. Sometimes I think one day someone is going to point at me and shout “She’s not really an adult!”.
I was reading a thread on reddit about things that surprised you about getting older and someone commented that for them it was watching their parents get older. This is certainly something I can relate to. It kind of breaks your heart to see my parents, these once seemingly invincible beings slowly break down. You come to realize that your parents are individuals with their own problems, quirks, and imperfections. They’re just trying to figure out their lives, just like you are. Essentially, they are you. And that’s terrifying. Because you certainly don’t have the answers, so how could they?
Apparently the day after the week of Chinese New Year’s day, it is everyone’s birthday as well. Everyone turns another year older, all together–a celebration of another year gone by and another year to come. I’m not sure what this year will bring and I certainly don’t think all my questions and uncertainties will be answered or resolved this year, but here’s another year to facing those questions and uncertainties, together.
Happy (belated) Chinese Year’s, everyone!
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