Chinese New Year 2013

This weekend I held my very first family holiday meal ~ a Chinese New Year feast.

I know this might come as a shock to some of you.

Please sit down.

Sit your coffee down so you don’t spill.

Here goes…

I am not Chinese. Or Asian for that matter.

I know, total shocker!

So how does country loving Okie, whose only Asian relative is a toddler go about hosting a Chinese New Year dinner? Friends, books, the internet and catering…that is how! Our immediate family celebrated last year, but this year we wanted to start a family tradition of hosting a big holiday meal at our home for extended family. I probably will never be able to celebrate the holiday and all its traditions in a ‘true’ way. I’m figuring out things as I go. Making mistakes. Learning new things. And just trying.

Our youngest daughter is Chinese and American. After talking to many adults that were adopted internationally as children I have picked up on a few things – everyone is SO DIFFERENT! Some have shared with me that they really don’t have any desire to hold on to the culture of their birth land. Others have expressed how important it is for them to be able to know and understand the culture, traditions and language of the country they were born in. Honestly, it is a huge hot debate for many and I have no desire to get in on all that. I have no idea how Little One will feel. That is her decision. Whatever she chooses won’t be right or wrong – it will be what is right for her. We will support that. However, I also know that it will be much harder to just suddenly start integrating Chinese traditions into our home if we wait until she is old enough to express a desire for that. So, we are starting now. We’ll follow her lead as she grows, but I sure hope she decides to embrace the beauty of what it means to be born in China.

I hope getting red envelopes with money for Chinese New Year will be just as much a part of our family holidays as eating turkey on Thanksgiving.  I’ve got a lot to learn and I am sure I will call things by the wrong name or do something the wrong way and some of you will notice. Correct me gently. Help me learn!

Our Chinese New Year celebrations will look a bit different than most. They are a melting pot of our family and that just won’t look like what it does on the other side of the globe. I’m okay with that.

Grandma (Chris’ mom) got the girls new clothes to celebrate

Nana (my mom) and the boys worked weeks to surprise us with a “Snake Dance”. Taking off of the traditional lion dance, they created a paper mache snake (it is the year of the snake) and danced under it. They told me their plan is to create a new one each year. Next year it is the year of the Horse – they are already planning. We passed out Hong Bao (red envelopes), talked about the meanings for using the color red, having oranges around, long noodles, dumplings, etc.

And before we dug into our delicious meal, we took time to thank God for the beautiful gift of family. For 5 healthy children. For having our daughter home celebrating with us this year. For lives rich in the things money can’t buy. And we ate!

The kids got new clothes for a new year. I am guessing flip flops and superhero t-shirts are not the traditional clothes given, but the kids sure liked the idea. My mom made Little One a new doll just in time for the new lunar year too.

As far as I know, this was the first time Little One has worn something like this.  FireCracker was so excited. It think the rainboots make the outfit:)

So…I have a question for my Chinese friends – FireCracker’s is pink, so I assume it is for girls. However, Little One’s is red – do boys and girls wear this? Someone said they were pajamas. Someone else told me they are everyday clothes. Just curious…

Whatever the case, the girls loved them and looked mighty cute.

Happy Chinese New Year

Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese for Happy Chinese New Year)

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  • Marie - Lovely tradition :)
    the outfit the girls are wearing are not pijamas!!! they are “traditional” however you don’t see anybody wearing them on normal every day occasions…
    they look absolutely cute as can be :)

  • yinyee - Ashley,
    Happy Chinese New Year!
    In the old days, Chinese ladies wore this kind of clothes. It was a style then, especially the buttons. Nowadays, some old ladies wear this as pajamas, just plain white cotton cloths. If you would like to have one, I can ship one for you.
    Yin Yee

  • Jennifer - Beautiful! It is so encouraging to see how adoptive families choose to celebrate. We adopted locally my goodness it has been 3 1/2 years ago; so we do not have cultural differences to celebrate, but we try to do it up big for “Gotcha Day”!

    I have been reading your blog since last spring and prayed and laughed and cried along with you on your journey. Considering you an unknown friend :)

    God bless!

    (My beautiful sister who lives in Uganda is currently taking your photography class :)

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - aww the girls look beautiful in these outfits! I love the hello kitty boots haha.

    I have heard the same things from those who were adopted. I know a lot of Chinese girls that were adopted and they tend to really want to learn more about their culture and connect with it. I had a friend growing up who was born in South Korea and she had a really hard time accepting being adopted as she grew even though she had such a loving home, and eventually she met her birth mother but I think she needed to as she was in a “searching for herself” period. My brother dated a girl who was adopted from S. Korea as well and she was so upset about being given up by her birth parents that she just rebelled as much as she could against her loving adoptive parents. It is really sad to see. A friend of mine who was adopted from S. Korea said that she always felt like she was a part of her family (she’s the youngest of 5 children in her family) that she never felt unloved and never really even felt Korean. She even did Scottish dancing just like her siblings and loved it. She never cared to know her birth family and just loved her adopted family so much. She said she knew kids adopted who didn’t understand how she was so accepting of it, but Christ really gave her comfort and peace. I know a LOT of people who were adopted from various countries. It is always wonderful to hear or watch how they grow (and as a youth leader, I currently have 3 girls who were adopted from China, two are sisters. . not blood, but adopted at different times and are sisters in that way).

    Not sure if you have something like this, but one of my youth girls tells me that there were many girls from China adopted in the same time period from the same orphanage and every year the families travel from all across our country to meet-up and spend time together. They call each other their “China sisters”. She really loves keeping in touch with those girls and it is a nice way that they have bonded as they grow together. I mean, they are only 14 at this point in time, but I am really glad to listen to her stories about her “China sisters” and getting together with them. I don’t know if any of these precious people I know celebrate their own cultures and their celebrations with their families, but I think it is a really great thing to teach them about it. For me, I tend to want to create my own sense of culture according to God’s Word instead of living as my culture around me as a light in the darkness, but it has been really hard to unwind a lot of the things that were ingrained in my head and as something taught to our culture….I’ve had to strip it all off and start over again. I wonder if that is what a lot of adoptive children go through in a way though.

    Wow I rambled. Sorry.

  • Stephanie - i am THRILLED that you went through all the effort to celebrate Chinese New Year!!! you never cease to amaze me with your huge heart and what it truly means to be a mother. thank you for all the work you put into embracing her culture. i don’t know how you do it with so many kids around you, you did an amazing job :)

    xoxo

  • Kelly - Have you ever bought/subscribed to Mary Engelbreit’s magazine? I remember in one issue there was an article about a Chinese New Year Party. Let me know if you want me to look through my issues and see which one it was. I would be happy to. Looks beautiful and like a lot of fun! Kelly

  • Kelli - Nicely done Ashley and as always thanks for sharing and allowing us a peek into the journey.

  • yujia - Hi Ashley :) I chanced upon your blog yesterday and I’ve been reading posts after posts! Thank you for your faithfulness and desire to share God’s love and grace with your family and those around you — it’s truly inspiring :)

    I’m a Singaporean Chinese (we’re not part of China, but our ancestors were from China), and your celebration looks pretty much legit to me! :) The little blue and pink lanterns aren’t usually used at CNY though, that’s more for Mid-Autumn Festival (???), where we light the lanterns and go for a walk outside and eat mooncakes! The big red chinese lanterns are used to decorate during CNY; some even leave it throughout the year and replace them with new ones the following year :)

    You can also make many different lanterns and other decorations like little fishes using the red packets — it’s a yearly DIY session :) A little google search will reveal much more :)

    Thanks once again for writing! :)

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  • emel - Hi Ashley;

    You are very thoughtfull! I am originally from Turkey and I came to US when I was 26 to learn English and I ended up doing a Ph.D. and marrying an American guy. Now we have 2 gorgeous kid and It is VERY important to me that they learn Turkish besides English. I would like them to learn the culture as well. So we go every summer to stay with my parents for a while. My daughter now, 3 know both English and Turkish. Her English is way more faboulus than her Turkish but it is OK. Well what I want to say is not many people are as understanding as you. Unfortunatelly some people dislike when I start talking her in Turkish in US. and they generally give a angry look. noone has ever said anything yet but still it is not a good feelin. So I want to congradulate you about being very much sensitive and giving your daughter an option.

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