Ellie’s Editions: Chinese New Year in review

I have a confession: I don’t own any red clothing, I can’t use chopsticks and I never tolerate the spice of a sauce-coated pan fried fish. During family gatherings, I watch silently as my cousins get showered with compliments about their Chinese language skills or other academic achievements. The holiday became a day of embarrassment rather than joy. 

On the other hand, when I was younger it was easy to love the environment of China and its culture – I could appreciate the day with my extended families. You walk in the doors with upside-down red signs hanging (I could’ve told you what the characters read back then), and immediately step forward to repeatedly greet every auntie, uncle, grandmother and grandfather in the restaurant. There’s an aroma of crushed Sichuan peppers, roasted Beijing duck, and the steam of little soup dumplings. I could recall all the warmth now, but not quite the same happiness that I once associated with seeing everyone. 

Now, I can barely speak in my mother tongue or chew multiple bites of any dish (not that I could even pick it up). It’s natural after all the years of being trampled on Chinese New Year that I stopped looking forward to the day. 

However, everything changed this year. Because of the events surrounding the recent holiday, I’ve finally noticed the importance of the holiday I had lost. The past feelings of awaiting the red pocket money I got from faraway relatives was quickly overcome by fear. Chinese New Year will forever be tied to the losses of the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings.

A holiday dedicated to the celebration of Chinese culture has been destroyed for many families by two murderers who chose to feel hatred on this day, and targeted our community with such force. Coming back to school after break, I could no longer find nostalgia lit by the lanterns I saw hung up across campus, and could only think about the recent devastating losses the Asian American community suffered.  

One day, I hope to see these red lanterns lit bright again with the cheer they once brought, and to devote a part of the holiday towards honoring the lives we lost. After all, the day is a holiday solely for remembering those in our family, including ancestors. Regardless of what happened this year, Chinese New Year is still a day for our community to wish for future happiness and prosperity through red envelopes, lanterns, longevity noodles, traditional rice cake and so many more little pieces of our continued history. It’s time for me to re-love the cultural gathering of Chinese New Year again and to relive the happiness I once felt before embarrassment.