The house is cleaned thoroughly before the Lunar New Year to sweep out bad luck, but not on New Year’s Day, for fear of cleaning out the good luck in store for the coming year. It’s apparently a traditional practice, or so I hear from the internet. My family didn’t adhere to a lot of these traditions growing up. In a multicultural household, it’s hard to keep track of all of the things you’re supposed to do, or the days that you’re supposed to do them on.
Still, I find comfort in traditions. Although the ways that we perform them may be different, and although my interpretations of their meanings may not be universally shared, it is something that I grew up around and appreciate. This year, as a sophomore, I am living in a dorm with a full kitchen. While it has a pitiful amount of counter space on which to work, I have enjoyed being able to get off of the dining plan and cook my own meals. I decided that I wanted to celebrate lunar new year by cooking dinner with my older brother. My mother sent me her recipe for wonton filling a few weeks ago, following a conversation that we had over the phone.
Although I could likely approximate many of the ingredients at the grocery stores around Penn, I made a trip out to Chinatown to purchase most of the things that I needed. As a note, I can’t read Chinese, and the small amount that I can say always tends to comes out convoluted and incorrect. (My garbled American tongue doesn’t know the accents it ought to use, and fails to replicate the proper tones.) Still, grocery shopping in Asian stores has a sense of familiarity with it. I spent enough time shopping with my mother in the Chinese grocery store to recognize labels and packaging, to know what brands we always liked and disliked.
I cleaned my apartment – washing and folding laundry, sweeping the floors. Although I know that these are behaviors that we should ingrain in our day to day lives, I sometimes fail to pay sufficient attention to the small tasks associated with cleaning and washing. One of the things that I know I need to work on in the coming year is mindfulness, and working on being present. Appreciating
I prepared food – pulling out bottles of sesame oil and soy sauce from my pantry, and oyster sauce and green onions from the refrigerator. I try to cook Chinese food whenever I can, but as a college student with time constraints, heavily involved meals don’t tend to happen too frequently. My dinner crowd increased from just myself and my brother to my three roommates. And, overall, it was really nice. I made wonton soup and a rice noodle dish, and enjoyed both the processes of cooking and sharing. We got to talk, and to listen.
It certainly isn’t tradition in its strictest sense – I don’t think that my ancestors had originally pictured that the new year would be ushered in by a mix of students in a crowded living room, looking out over the skyline. Still, I can’t imagine having it any other way, and feel that the purpose of the festivities (a celebration of togetherness, and remembrance) is one that has been maintained. I’m glad to have spent the day and night with friends and family, and am looking forward to continuing it throughout the rest of the year. Tonight, I’ll be cooking a second time for a dinner with friends in a student group I am part of. I mixed more wonton filling, and have hard boiled eggs sitting in my fridge to turn into tea eggs. Some more friends are coming over to help me prepare the meal, and walk it over to the halls together. It’s certainly starting my new year off right.
Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Year of the Horse! Wishing you and those you love a happy and rewarding year ahead of you.