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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Year of the Rat: 4706

This weekend we celebrated Chinese New Year in style, watching Mei Mei Dancers and the Monkey King; creating craft projects such as Chinese lanterns and rat puppets; and spending time with twins Cinnamon and Spice and their parents, along with hundreds of our "closest" FCC friends.

The Tongginator especially loved the face painting, although -- in her case -- it's arm painting. She still doesn't much care for people touching her face. It's a sensory thing, but I can't say that I blame her. The Tongginator asked for three ladybugs because she wanted them to "be a family, with a mommy and a daddy and a me."

Several people have asked how we, as a Christian family, celebrate the Chinese New Year. We very much value our daughter's cultural heritage, and we wish to share with her our rich Christian heritage as well. Here are a few ways we do so:

Just as Westerners tend to look for a "fresh start" during early January, so too do those of Asian descent during the lunar new year. As a Chinese-American family, we clean our house from top to bottom during the week prior to Chinese New Year. It's a time of purging and donating all of our drawer and closet clutter. Proverbs 31:27 - "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

We purchase new outfits (usually in red) and also visit a hairdresser a few days prior to the holiday. We hope the outward changes will also foster some inner changes, creating a time of self-reflection and renewed commitment. First Corinthians 13:12 - "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Most years, we decorate the house with fresh flowers, bowls of oranges, tangerines and plums. We hang lanterns and sometimes even spring couplets, which are paper wall hangings with Chinese characters that share well wishes. Spring is such a wonderful time of year, and we hope to teach our girls to appreciate this gift from the Lord. Song of Solomon 2:12 - "Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land."

Chinese New Year is also a time to exchange gifts with family and friends. We gift children and teens with hong bao (AKA red envelopes) filled with crisp new dollar bills. We have also given (and received!) tangerines with stems still attached, as well as special sweet treats. Proverbs 11:25 - "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

We also read many, many children's Chinese New Year books, including our favorites Cat and Rat by Ed Young; My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz; Dragon Dance by Joan Holub; Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin; and The Dancing Dragon by Marcia K. Vaughan.

Every year we develop more Chinese New Year traditions. Chinese New Year is as much a part of our lives as Christmas. While we may not necessarily spend the day with family (although the Tongginator's Grammy attended this year), we do spend the day with other families who look like ours. And that special "red thread" does create a unique family connection.


Janet said...

I think it sounds like a great way to celebrate!