This morning started with Mr. Fixit extracting compliments and good wishes out of the kids in exchange for li xi stuffed with crisp bills and foil-wrapped chocolate coins. By the time I came downstairs, the kids were waiting for me with compliments dripping like honey from their lips. Nothing works better to reinforce a desired behaviour than rewarding with food and money.
Lunar New Year used to be a huge big deal for us. For a while, Creative Cat was taking Chinese Dance lessons, and Queen Bee was in Mandarin classes, and we were more actively involved with our adoption agency. All of those groups would have Chinese New Year performances and activities, and we felt obligated to dress everybody up and attend as many as possible. Every weekend from mid-January to late February would be given over to New Year activities, scrubbing the house and preparing elaborate Chinese or Vietnamese foods. It was more time-consuming than Christmas.
Over the years we’ve devolved a bit. We observe some of the superstitions – for example, everyone had to get haircuts last week, and wash their hair last night, so the good luck of a new year would stick to their hair and seep into their brains. We hand out li xi to as many of the kids’ friends as possible. We’ll prepare some traditional foods for our feast this weekend, but our dessert will be chocolate fondue. However, I’ve given up on the massive cleaning effort and for a variety of reasons we’ve stopped attending the many cultural events.
Usually we decorate the house, and usually we have a midnight noise-making scare-away-the-evil-spirits celebration the night before Lunar New Year, but this year neither of those things happened. Usually I go into the kids’ classrooms with story books and special foods to help teach their classmates about the holiday, but that’s not happening this year either. The school will mark the occasion anyway, although it won’t be as special as it was when I brought fresh spring rolls into the kids’ classrooms last year.
This year I feel like we should be doing more to mark the holiday. Oddly, despite my guilt, no one else seems to have even noticed that anything is different from past years. The kids seem able to enjoy what we do without demanding more. They seem to view last years’ spring rolls as a fun aberration, not as something that needs to be repeated every year. I think there’s a lesson in there for me – I need to ease up the pressure on myself, and just enjoy a fun, relaxed holiday with my family.
Gong Hey Fat Choy! Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Happy New Year! May Year of the Rabbit bring us all health, prosperity, and the peace that comes with knowing that the best we can do is good enough.