Red Pocket

Like most kids, Chinese New Year was something that I always looked forward to each year. In fact, I probably looked forward to it more than my birthday. Family gatherings, red pockets, yummy food for meals and snacks, new clothes, three weeks of break. What is there not to love about it?

Chinese New Year Sweets

Chinese New Year Sweets made by Angelina's family

The tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year didn’t really carry over here when we moved. Some years we have dinner at our aunt’s place, some years we don’t. There are no more firecrackers nor do we hear Chinese New Year music anymore. Needless to say, the amount of red pockets we get decreased dramatically. The 氣氛 of Chinese New Year is near non-existent here.

But living here led to a new tradition of Chinese New Year. On New Year’s Eve, my parents would always go to a Vietnamese temple. During the ceremonies, the disciples put on a show of lion dancing. At the end of the ceremony, everyone gets an orange hanging from the tree. Each orange has a paper at the bottom, saying something about you related to Buddhism.

Each orange is carefully tied to the tree with a paper on the bottom

As a kid I’ve always semi-dread 拜年. My brother and I always want to be the first to speak with my relatives on the phone; so we can end the conversation by saying “Hold on, my sister/brother wishes to talk to you as well”. We would memorize a string of four-word phrases and repeat different combinations of them each time. But as we grow up, it’s an opportunity to catch up with relatives and family friends that we haven’t seen for a while, and for some it has been more than 10 years.

Lion Dancing

Lion dancing at the temple, where kids would offer money to the lions at the end

Year by year I miss Chinese New Year at Taiwan more. As kids, Chinese New Year meant lots and lots of red pockets, even though we don’t actually keep the red pocket money, nor do we really need them. But it was exciting getting all of them, putting them under your pillows. I loved new bills that had consequetive serial numbers. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, we have dinner with just my parents and my grandpa. Then on the first day of new year, we always go to my first aunt’s place; second aunt’s place on the second day. Then one of the days they come to our place and my grandpa would hand out red pockets to all the kids. That means four days of yummy food and playing with our cousins! I always loved shopping with my mom in preparation of the New Year. It means I get to see all sorts of snacks and pick what kind we have at our house.

As I complain how much Chinese New Year lacks here, I’ve realized I just miss Taiwan too much. There’s too much emphasis on Taiwan. But having a Chinese New Year in Taiwan now would never be the same as I did when I was a kid. Chinese New Year is about spending time with my family, not about the activities. And so, this Chinese New Year is another good one!

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