With Chinese New Year upon us, it is time to do some annual reflection on how I feel about celebrating the Lunar New Year/Chinese New Year (which will be further known as LNY or CNY in this post) away from home. This is our second LNY away from home but I consider it our first since last year in Vancouver, CNY didn’t even really happen for us. Of course living in a bunker might have had something to do with the poor disposition and lack of festive cheer last year. But forget that since we are heading into a new year.
Chinese New Year used to be, dare I say, fun and exciting. It has become generally less so over the past few years. Let’s get to that in a bit. For now, let me point out that Christmas is probably a bigger deal in our family (even though we’re not Christians) than Chinese New Year but that doesn’t mean we celebrate it any less. Well, actually, we don’t gamble or drink or blow firecrackers or wear traditional costumes or buy any of fancy red decor or listen to the, uh, ‘festive’ music but let’s just pretend other people don’t either.
What doesn’t get old about the LNY includes boycotting Chinese restaurants and going to an empty McDonald’s for reunion dinner (we need to get an A+ on our how-Asian-are-you report card), chatting and laughing over said fast food, celebrating the first day by going vegetarian for the day (it’s a tradition in our household for as long as I can remember), lazing around in the house and occasionally sneaking a cookie or two into your mouth while waiting for relatives to show up (usually the first day isn’t that busy), drinking cans upon cans of shandy (which only makes its appearance during the LNY in our household), eating all the cookies and candies meant for guests (just kidding, CNY cookies never end), generally eating a lot of good food without even realizing until CNY is over, and, well, spending time with family.
Because if we’re being honest, the Lunar New Year is all about family and food.
Perhaps the motto of Chinese New Year is Get fat, get rich or get rich, get fat. I might be wrong. Don’t quote me on this.
But like with any other holiday that involves large family gatherings or even small ones (consisting of people you only see once a year or, um, people you didn’t even know were in your family), there are bound to be some moments when you just wish the freaking holidays were over. To quote a store clerk who told us how his Christmas went, “It was good but I’m glad it’s over.”
Yeah, exactly like that.
Which is what brings me to this post that I’m writing one day before midterms (obviously).
Tis the time to think about how glad you’re not home to meet up with your lovely cousins who on a yearly basis seem to somehow forget who you are and have to start over with introductions. They’re the only cousins that I feel we were particularly close to while growing up since we even went on vacations together but somehow none of that seems to stick in their brain since every time we meet, they look at us blankly like, cousins who?
Well, never mind that. As the years have passed and as we’ve each grown up, I’ve come to realize that we are quite different from them and I no longer feel like we have anything in common nor do I feel interested in playing their little amnesia game. We do not dress like tarts (come on, be honest, there are always family members who dress like tarts for the holidays or, well, any day of the year) and we are not interested in band-wagon-ing (trust me, they’ve jumped onto every damned bandwagon that ever existed and though there is nothing wrong with that, it just tells me that they cannot form opinions of their own and just go with what the majority is saying).
But those are just minor things. What gets to me is their level of rudeness – no, not towards us of the same age group – but to older people like my parents and grandparents and other older people. They are just so rude. They’ve always been rude, by the way. SO rude. Thinking about it makes me want to give them a tight slap. If we had been that rude while growing up, you bet we would’ve had to endure an earful from Mom.
As you may or may not know, Chinese families have name rankings (wrong word usage maybe) like second uncle or third aunty or fourth grandniece… things like that. The young respect the old so you call them by the appropriate name, it’s that simple.
Oh, but here we have cousins calling us by our given names. I’m older than all of them lol. We also have these same cousins NOT greeting their elders. They can waltz up alongside their parents to a group of older people and just. stand. there.
You know how in Mulan, her father says she brought shame and dishonor to her family by speaking out against that military dude who came to make announcements in the village? Yes. In Chinese custom, you being rude is a reflection of your upbringing (the way your parents brought you up).
My mom raised us to greet everyone. It doesn’t matter whether these same uncles and aunts have embarrassed you in front of older cousins or whether you’ve seen them before or not, you still have to greet them. If you don’t know what to call them, you just call them ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ but you still greet them. My mom used to prompt us when we were younger… like, ‘This is granduncle, say hello’. Then as we got older, she would tell us before leaving the house, ‘it should be automatic, no need for me to prompt you anymore’ so it has become second nature to know when and how to greet someone older than you.
Lol, you know what, it doesn’t even have to be your real uncle or aunt. I go to a noodle stall and if my grandaunt is familiar with the lady who works there, I still call her ‘aunty’.
So what is my point exactly? My point is, I do not miss seeing these cousins who come to our house every year, give that bitchy attitude in front of all the older people, and act all hoity-toity/self-important/high-and-mighty/better-than-you-scum because they think they come from a better pond (please, I laugh). They have no respect for themselves and they have no respect for others. I’m sorry, none of your hundred dollar non-existent shorts, designer handbags from Italy, 5000 likes on Instagram, caviar-topped meals, overflowing artistic talent nor academic achievements mean A THING to me because all I can see is how rude and disrespectful you are.
If it hurts you so much to show your face at our home or open your mouth to even just greet your elders, don’t come. Don’t bother. No one needs to see your face when it’s supposed to be about spending time with family.
Oh, did I also forget to mention: come to our house, be rude, look down on others, but have the galls to EAT our cookies and drink our drinks without hesitation. Amazing. Could you stoop any lower? I’ll have to think about this one.
Also, no one needs to have your false non-boasting act. ‘No boasting’, is what my aunt says. Yet at dinner, somehow, it’s ‘accidentally’ let slip that one of them got good grades for their tests.
Another thing that I feel needs to be mentioned about their rudeness and disrespect and generally unacceptable behavior is, you do NOT wear other people’s shoes to run around in, especially if you have the freaking galls to NOT greet them. I just heard a story from my mom who just met up with said cousins and apparently the few youngest ones (ages 6-10, I believe) were running around outside a relative’s house and thought it would be appropriate to wear my mom’s shoes to run around in. Ah, I feel a cuss word – or many – at my fingertips. I’ll refrain.
In any case, it feels good to get this off my chest but at the same time, I sympathize with my mom who has to deal with this crap. Again, I refrain from using a cuss word or two. Stay tuned for part 2. It may or may not happen.
Any holiday stories you would like to share?
And oh yes, Happy Lunar New Year!