As a Chinese-American I’ve celebrated the lunar new year, or in my personal case Chinese New Year every year in some manner. My family has our own ways of celebrating, by eating mooncake from Eastern Bakery (in San Francisco, which we always ship to Hawaii because it’s the best!), making and eating gau (chinese mochi, no dates for us those are nasty), other treats such as almond cookies (my dad’s fave!) and peanut sticky candy and a full chinese family dinner. Since this is my third year at the University of Puget Sound, it’s also my third year without many of these traditions my family has. And while that’s sad it’s also a reality check, when I graduate I probably won’t be moving home and continuing life as I did for the first 18 years of my life. I’ll be on my own, making friends and community, starting my own cultural traditions and life. But thats a thought to continue in one and a half years (when I graduate).
For now, the sub and DCS respect and support the lunar new year tradition along with other cultural signifigant events and dates with special dishes. For this year they prepared good luck rice cake soup, cucumber kimchee and fortune cookies. While these aren’t the traditions I’m famililar with they may be home-y and comforting to others who also celebrate the Lunar New Year such as Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese and other east asian countries that follow the lunar calendar. It’s a reminder that people celebrate their culture differently everywhere and it’s adapted and grown over time beyond the countries they originated in, which is a really cool thing to think about.
For me, celebrating Chinese New Year away from home means awaiting goodies from my other Chinese (and from Hawaii) friends, some of whom made almond cookies, others who their grandma (or in cantonese, po-po) sent up homemade gau to enjoy. This year some friends and I decided to participate in the Tacoma tradition of hunting for monkeyshines. 13th years ago a group of local glass-blowing artists were feeling gloomy as the winter weather can make us feel and decided to spread some light and love in the spirit of the chinese new year and created glass baubles as cups, ornaments, balls, medallions and more all stamped with the zodiac (in that year the monkey) and hid them all over Tacoma. Flash-forward to the present, many people of Tacoma are out and about early (like 4am early) on Chinese New Year to find these hidden monkeyshines (named after the first zodiac year and the shine of the glass) all around Tacoma in front yards, Old Town, the waterfront (and actually in the water!), parks, bushes, anywhere you could think to spread the good spirit and excitement. When my friends and I ventured out we ran into other young 20-year old people, families with children, adults, elderly people and more all wandering Tacoma in the dark with flashlights looking for these magical treats. While we didn’t find anything yesterday morning, we definitely bonded over the excitement, searching, cold weather (mid-30s), and meeting other searchers. And although we only found a few trinkets and marbles, we are even more excited and determined to find monkeyshines next year!
Happy Lunar New Year! Gong Hey Fat Choi!