As an immigration attorney, I have the privilege of working with people from all sorts of different cultures and countries. My favorite part of immigration law is visiting USCIS and sitting in the waiting room with handfuls of other people and seeing them interact with their loved ones. It’s such a unique experience to observe how differently we interact with each other and how each of our unique cultures has shaped us.
Today is the first day of the new lunar year, which is the biggest holiday in my culture. I am a second-generation Chinese American, and Chinese New Year has always been the most celebrated holiday in my family. While traditions and customs vary depending on where your family origins are, for me Lunar New Year is a holiday focused on food, family and of course red envelopes!
In my family, we traditionally spend Lunar New Year’s Eve together and share a meal with many dishes. Last night, for 6 of us, we had 10 dishes! Each dish with some sort of significance- for instance, fish is a very traditional dish for New Years. The word for fish, 鱼, sounds similar to the word for abundance, 余. In wishing that our new years are filled with abundance (aka wealth), we eat fish! In preparation for the new year, we are supposed to clean our homes, take out the garbage, do the laundry, and generally be ready to start the new year fresh!
On New Year’s day, my grandmother makes homemade eggrolls and rice cakes- the highlight of my New Year’s celebration. We make the rounds and greet all the elders with a “Gong Hey Fat Choy, Sun Leen Fai Lok” which is a wish for prosperity and a happy new year. The best part is that when you wish others “Gong Hey Fat Choy”, the married elders will give you a red envelope with money in return! But red envelopes are only given to those who are unmarried and once you are married, you become one of the givers of red envelopes instead of a receiver. So for you singles out there, enjoy it while it lasts!
Happy Lunar New Year! Wishing you all health, prosperity and happiness in the year of the horse!