Monday, January 26, 2009

Xin Nian Kuai Le!!!

January 26th ushers in the New Year throughout much of Asia. The earth rat must skitter away to make way for the powerful earth ox who achieves prosperity through fortitude and hard work. According to the Chinese horoscope, Ox people (like our new President Barack Obama) are dependable, calm and modest. Like his animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in his work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.

So Happy New Year to all! The above phrase "Xin Nian Kuai Le" is Mandarin for Happy New Year and is generally what you will hear in Taiwan. Many are familiar with the oft uttered New Year's greeting "Kung hei fat choi" which is Cantonese for congratulations and be prosperous.
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is considered the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays and is celebrated in many parts of Asia including China, Taiwan, Korea, Bhutan, Vietnam, Macau, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippians and Thailand.

The Lunar New Year is based on the Chinese calendar (this year it is actually year 4706!) and falls on the second or, less often, the third new moon after the winter solstice depending on intercalary events.

Common traditions to celebrate the New Year include: thoroughly cleaning the house in the days prior to the New Year to rid homes of any bad luck left over from the previous year. Conversely, one does NOT sweep the house for the first three days of the New Year so as to avoid sweeping out any incoming good luck. Before the New Year many families decorate their homes with paper lanterns and banners in which the color red is liberally applied. Parades with firecrackers as well as dragon and lion dances are seen in homes and in the streets and feasting is a central event in the New Years celebration. There are many traditional foods associated with the holiday and many of them have specific meanings: bamboo shoots, oranges, egg rolls and seaweed - wealth; dried bean curd-happiness; chicken -happiness and marriage; eggs-fertility; pomelos and fish served whole - prosperity; Lychee nuts - close family ties; noodles and peanuts- long life; tangerines - luck; and different types of seeds for having many children. Happily for me, since white is a color associated with death in China tofu is avoided.

Gifts are also given during the New Year as is "hong bao" or red envelopes generally given to children and filled with coins (real or chocolate!).
We were eager to begin some Lunar New Year traditions of our own (personally I find it much more interesting than the January 1st New Year!) so we jumped in but started small. No, I did not do a thorough spring cleaning, although I think I managed to get most of the laundry done the day before N.Y. (does that count?) We decorated (albeit minimally) with a red paper lantern, a red double fish table runner (the double fish being an important symbol of abundance) and a bounty of oranges. We ordered Chinese food and sat around the table reading the story of how the Chinese zodiac came into being. My kids love to talk about what animals we all are (from oldest to youngest: dragon, sheep, snake, sheep, rat) The kids received special chopsticks of their own in addition to their hong bao. We intend to grow the tradition through the years, but thought we best get going on it this year. We also attended a community Lunar New Year celebration at the experiential children's museum here in town put on by the Congee Club, our FCC chapter.
I am now beginning to understand something about International Adoption that I didn't FULLY realise (at least not on an emotional level )until recently. You honor your child's traditions, of course, because you want them to be familiar with and appreciate their heritage. I got that from the beginning. But now I see it a bit differently. You learn, grow and celebrate in these traditions because now it is a part of who YOU are as a family. It is definitely about the "whole" not the "one". You have adopted not only a child but an entire culture of which you will incorporate at least pieces of into your life. Much like marrying into a family from a different background you are now merging as one unique unit that weaves together diverse traditions. It isn't about Kate as an individual rather, it is about the Sullivan's and who we are now and who we are becoming. I must admit, the cultural anthropology major in me could not be more thrilled with this expansive development. Thank you Kate for bringing this richness into our life. You are so loved sweet girl.
Note: I recognize that Kate often looks very serious in her photos which is ironic as she is actually a very happy smiley baby. I don't think we have a model in the making though. She is highly suspect of the camera.


Eva said...


What a beautiful post! I am so touched by the last paragraph about the whole vs. individual part. We did not do anything this year except being invited to a Chinese New Year's Eve's dinner. We sure will start some family traditions next year.


Lisa said...

What a beautiful summary of both the CNY and the merging of two worlds into one joyful family. Like Eva I was struck by the last paragraph and could not agree more.

The richness these children bring is often the best kept secret of adoption. The love, blessings, laughs and joy are understood out right, but its the little nuances that bring such depth and fundamental shifts to our lives.

I don't know how I missed this post for so long! I'm so glad you posted this and Kate DOES look like a happy happy baby girl! And you all look so joyful!!
Lisa C.

dan and rachel said...

Love this post! It is so great to see pictures!!! Kate is just darling -- as is your entire family. I completely "get" what you are saying about it being about the whole and not the one. I have had that same realization recently and am beyond excited to be able to someday include ethiopian traditions in our family life. they will become our traditions and i am truly honored to partake in them! love your perspective!

Nicole said...

Oh, she is TOO cute! Love those cheeks! Looks like you had a nice dinner!

Rebecca of "China, Baby!" said...

Sarah, I could not be more happy than to see your sweet baby Kate in your arms!!!! I know what you mean about the lack of smiles - I get those suspicious looks too. :) I loved what you said about merging cultures... that is exactly how we look at it, too.

lorabelle said...

How did I miss this last post?!
I was dropping by to comment and give you a little bit of something for having not posted in awhile...
OOPS!!! Love the new pictures! You sure can tell how happy you are! She is such a doll Sarah.