With Haddon joining our family, we knew the importance of incorporating his Chinese culture into our family. We do this in a lot of little ways—with the foods we cook, the books we read, the news we pay attention to, the songs we listen to and the places we go, to name a few.
Of course, we started celebrating Chinese New Year.
Last year, we put up a few banners we had purchased in China and ordered takeout from our favorite Chinese restaurant in Milwaukee.
This year we upped our game a little bit. I read up a bit more on the traditions and their meaning (a lot of polytheistic folk religion) and we planned things out a little better. I know our celebration is but a shadow of how Chinese families celebrate, but we are an American family with mixed cultural heritage, including Chinese, and so this is our American Chinese New Year.
On the front door I hung our large Chinese knot. We hung the festive banners we brought back from China in the kitchen.
This past weekend, we hosted a little Chinese New Year play date with two other families with children adopted from China. One of the moms is from Hong Kong, so she led us in making about 150 dumplings. I lost track of how many dumplings Haddon ate, but it was a lot, and he hasn’t stopped asking about them since. Good thing I have a bunch in the freezer and now feel confident that I could make them again on my own.
For the play date, I printed out some Chinese New Year coloring pages for the kids. They kept my kids entertained in the ensuing days as well. I also let them practice using chop sticks by seeing if they could transfer almonds, M&Ms and popcorn kernels from one bowl to another.
I displayed our collection of Chinese books (some from the library) by the fireplace for the kids to peruse. “Emma’s American Chinese New Year” is a particularly good one for us since it’s about a little girl adopted from China (although the slant rhyming in it drives me crazy).
The kids made red paper lanterns and I hung those in our kitchen.
On Chinese New Year’s Eve (the night most families celebrate), we picked up Chinese food and had my sister and her family over for dinner. The kids wore traditional qipao outfits we had purchased in a variety of sizes when we were in China. Basically it was just a regular rousing dinner with family, with kids screaming and running in every direction.
Before bed, I gave the kids lucky money in red envelopes—$2 each. Even numbers except the number four are good luck, and the price of a candy bar is supposed to be an appropriate amount. I wouldn’t pay $2 for a candy bar, but wanted to keep it even (also, really each adult is supposed to individually give each kid lucky money).
Two things I forgot about but had wanted to do—give the kids Mandarin oranges and do sparklers or party poppers. There’s always next year.
This weekend we’re planning on checking out a community Chinese New Year event at our local high school.
And that’s that! It’s been a fun week so far celebrating Chinese traditions and ringing in the Year of the Pig.