After hearing about Mayor De Blasio's thoughts on Chinese New Year being a NYC school holiday, I started reflecting about my experience growing up in Chinatown. Here are my thoughts:
1. Chinese New Year eve is a night where the whole family gets together for dinner. We have sure that our hair is cut (so we don't cut away the good luck), our floors and homes are clean (so we don't have to sweep away the good luck), and we have showered (so we don't wash away the good luck.) You get the point! That will make any child exhausted!
2. Around midnight, lion dance groups start a small midnight show to scare away the spirits. How was I supposed to sleep at night with all of that excitement? As the drums, gongs, and cymbals ring in my ears, I usually had too much energy to fall asleep for school the next day.
3. I was very involved in the community as a young Chinatown resident. My dad would take me out to see the midnight lion dances and I was always performing at the local community center on New Years day. If I didn't take a half-day off from school, I took a full day off.
As an American Born Chinese, it is difficult to find balance in both identities. We must constantly educate ourselves and our younger generation about what it means to be Chinese. Having the day off would be substantial. Did you know that in China and Hong Kong, people don't work for two weeks during Chinese New Year? However, my argument is that it is not a day to stay home and watch TV. It is a day to spend with family and learn more about Chinese culture and traditions. When I became a teenager, I started to lion dance. Chinese New Year in the Chinatown streets became my biggest stage. There was no way I was interested in attending school that day!
Being home for Chinese New Year means the world to me. Growing up and having responsibilities means that you can not always make it home for the special day. This year, due to work responsibilities, I will not be able to go home until the week after.
In the next blog post, I'll share some ideas on how to celebrate Chinese New Year away from home!