It’s tough to admit, but we’re keeping our celebrations low key for the Year of the Monkey–which starts on February 8, 2016.
When the kids were younger, I made a big deal out of Tết (Lunar New Year in Vietnamese). I drove an hour to buy bánh chưng, the traditional food we eat for luck. My mom sent the kids Vietnamese clothes. Bought children’s books about Tết. I scoured the internet to find local celebrations and parades. We drove all over the DC metro area to attend.
We had fun. But it was lot of pressure.
Since we lived so far away from my parents, I felt that it was my duty to be as Vietnamese as possible. For the sake of give our biracial kids an understanding of their Vietnamese heritage.
As the kids got older, we became busier on the weekends. Birthday parties, swimming classes or something else. My husband couldn’t always join us, but when he did, the Vietnamese people at the events stared harder at our family. When it was just me and the kids, they seemed shocked when they heard me speaking Vietnamese to the kids.
The festivals felt less fun. It felt tiring to be on guard all the time–worried that someone would remark about my black children. Or worse, accidentally overhear someone disparaging the one black guy at the event–my husband. Not every Vietnamese person is this way, but the older generation doesn’t always approve our interracial families–especially if the “outsider” is African American.
Over the years, we’ve attended less and less Tết festivals. Instead we attend events geared towards the general public–Americans. Here, I feel most welcome. We are surrounded by a diverse crowd. Some whose culture celebrates the Lunar New Year and others who want to learn more.
This year our plans are to eat some good Vietnamese food. Obviously we’ll eat bánh chưng but I plan on slurping big bowls of phở too. We’re heading into DC to attend a celebration hosted by the Smithsonian. And I’m handing out red envelopes to the kids.
There’s no set rules or guidelines on how to teach your family’s cultures to your biracial kids. I’m learning as I go and adjusting course as needed to fit us. Just because we celebrate differently from how I did as a kid doesn’t make my children less Vietnamese. They’re Vietnamese and black and American.
I hope you’ll join us. Learn more about the Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year) and introduce your family to some new foods and traditions.
Happy Year of the Monkey!
Learn more about our traditions and important issues for the New Year from my fellow #AsianMomBloggers:
- Maria at Bicultural Mama: Baked Egg Rolls Recipe for Chinese New Year
- Grace at HapaMama: Ways to Share Chinese New Year This Year of the Monkey
- Phyllis from Napkin Hoarder: Deep bows, good luck, & celebrating a New Year twice #AsianMomBloggers
- Stephanie from A Family Lives Here: 3 Simple Ways To Celebrate Chinese New Year
- Thien-Kim at I’m Not the Nanny: Why I’m Not Going All Out for Lunar New Year
- Ilina from Dirt and Noise: Jay Chaudhuri – Career Citizen for NC Senate Applauds President’s New Gun Violence Reduction Measures
We keep our celebration low key too. I think if we lived by my parents (in another state) we’d have a bigger celebration since there would be more family around. Happy New Year to you and your family!
I totally agree about the Vietnamese events. We are a trans-racial family with a boy adopted from Vietnam. We don’t feel particularly welcome at the Vietnamese events. We go sometimes to meet friends or I go to see what Vietnamese stuff I can buy. Sometimes there are vendors who sell ao dai’s. The Chinese events seem much more open and welcoming to outsiders. My favorite event of all time was the Li Ming Chinese School celebration at a Montgomery County Library. It had several parts with teenage spokespersons explaining different parts of Chinese New Year between performances, Lion Dance, Shadow Puppet, Yo-Yo, Martial Arts, pretend family dinner. It was all about explaining the holiday to the uninitiated.
We try to keep our celebrations low key also. I also think, for us, the meaning is a bit lost on the celebrations because it’s not our immediate family’s tradition.
Dude. I’m with you ladies on low-key. I’m a fan of doing what’s best for our specific families. As soon as you mentioned slurping bowls of pho, my tummy grumbled. xoxo