Happy New Year! It's the Lunar/Chinese New Year - celebrating the Year of the Dog. I really enjoy this time of year, not because we get lucky money (haha not anymore now that I'm married) but for honoring traditions and spending time with family. I don't consider myself a practicing buddhist but I do believe in a higher being and that our ancestors are watching over us and their spirits are amongst us. During this time, we make an offering to the gods and honor them and our ancestors (all referred to as ong ba) to bring us prosperity, good health, and fortune. Days leading up to the New Year or Tet (in Vietnamese), the house should be clean and tidy as it sets the tone for the upcoming year. Deep cleaning shouldn't be for days after as it may wash away your good luck and fortune. I tried my best to clean the house and organize but having a sick baby and husband the week leading up to Tet didn't go exactly as planned. I always remember my mom talking to the spirits as she sets out this elegant paper meant as money and fabric for clothes along with fruit and flowers on the altar (of Ba Quan Am - kindof like an all encompassing god that takes on many forms and roles). On New Years Eve, we cook all this food and offer it to the gods, burn incense and bow to show our respects. Only after the incense has fully burned is when we can eat. Now that I have my own home, I wanted to keep part of the tradition and set up some fruit and flowers for Tet by keeping it simple since I don't have an altar set up. Usually red gladiolus flowers are traditional for New Years, but since I couldn't find it locally, these red and yellow flowers worked well too. I always find it a little awkward when I burn the incense and bow not because I don't know what to do but more so of what to say (since my mom has always done it). In my head I know what I want to say, but it doesn't always translate out loud the way I want it to. To thank the gods for watching over us this past year, to thank them for keeping us healthy and safe, and to ask our ancestors to continue to watch over our family and bless our home this upcoming year. I always start off speaking in Vietnamese, then English, then stuttering and stopping altogether because it's semi-awkward for me since I'm not used to doing it. But I know that they hear the thoughts that I express from within and can feel that I am beyond grateful for what we have.
It was pretty awesome to receive li xi or lucky money given in red envelopes when I was growing up. Only when you are married do you start giving money to the kids and siblings younger than you and stop receiving money (although some parents still usually give it). It's fun to use that money to play the lucky game of Bau Cua Tom Ca (Gourd Crab Shrimp Fish). My aunt's family came up from VA to celebrate the festivities as my grandfather is here visiting from Vietnam also. So to have all the kids and family in one place was pretty awesome.
According to Chinese tradition, once you are married, the daughter can't return home on the eve of New Years but only after the start of the year since it may bring bad fortune. This I did not know! lol I guess it worked out since I had to work that morning and traveling home after would have been too far and a long night traveling with my babe. I did get to spend Chinese New Year with my husband's family which was nice. I didn't realize but in Chinese tradition, the meal cooked on New Years Eve is to celebrate this past year and lunch usually that upcoming weekend is to celebrate the upcoming year. Last year I missed out on lunch as I was going into labor with Liam. I really want to be able to show Liam the traditions, honor, and respect we have in both our Vietnamese and Chinese families and hope that he doesn't loose part of that culture as he grows up.