The Chinese New Year is here! The Chinese New Year is not a one-day event, but rather a festival that lasts for 15 days – punctuated at the beginning and end and throughout with enormous amounts of firecrackers. There is no other holiday or festival throughout the year that comes anywhere close to this one – it’s the MAIN EVENT! Everyone goes back to their hometown, stores and restaurants close down, and everyone focuses on eating, drinking, and making merry.
After nearly a decade, you would think we would be getting used to all this. We have “figured it out” in the sense that we know what to expect. I shop ahead so that we have plenty to eat. I bake lots of banana bread to gift to our friends. I brace myself for the lack of sleep that we will all incur due to all the firecrackers and the strange “party foods” that will be served. Still, I feel like it’s a struggle to get excited and enjoy much of it when it’s not a holiday that has much meaning for us.
Because the actual events of the celebration have little meaning to us, we really try to focus on using this time to build stronger relationships with our local friends. We are always invited to join folks for various lunch or dinner feasts during the festival, and though this takes a little work and rearranging for me to try and keep the boys in their homeschool routine, we do try and make the effort to attend. Our friends love hosting us, especially the kids, and try to make it fun and special. It’s sweet to be included in this most sacred of family holidays ( this would be similar to inviting someone home for Thanksgiving Dinner), and as outsiders, we value the invitation and gesture of acceptance.
This year we were invited to the home of a new friend to share in the biggest feast of the festival, the Reunion Dinner, served on the eve of the lunar new year. My friend’s mother, well into her 70s, worked all day to prepare a huge traditional feast for us. There were nearly a dozen different dishes on the table – fish, chicken, pork, soup, veggies, and lots of chili peppers! Afterward, we let the boys do some firecrackers outside under Daddy’s close supervision.