As a child, I learned that there were rules that came with the celebration of Lunar New Year: eat noodles, no haircuts, kids get money, forgive transgressions, everybody be nice. I’ve tried to convey these rules to Kina in the last couple of New Year cycles, but some are landing better than others. Let’s just say she’s good on the noodles.
In the United States last year, we didn’t lose our Lunar New Year the way China did. This is, accordingly, the first official Chinese New Year of the American pandemic, and so it carries with it a little bit of extra grief, requires a lot more forgiveness. A lot. The burden that we’ve felt, and that Kina is feeling, as The Long Year drags out is hard to shake in the way we need to. Add to that a four-year-old who hasn’t napped, and you can see how so we are all rubbed a bit thin and exhausted. Sure, Kina is not always at her best—to herself or others—even on Chinese New Year. Who among us, et cetera.
A new year is supposed to mean something, to reset the board. It’s a fallacy, of course, but we hope that if we all believe it, we can trade against that sense of jubilee, like fiat currency. The only reasonable way to succeed at the psychological game of New Years is to admit that nothing has changed, and that you are simply making a choice—to eat noodles, to give gifts, to be nice. As a Chinese-American, you get two of those chances in under two months to make a choice. Have I made good use of those choices? Perhaps not. Can you blame me?
Kina, for her part, found ways to be extra sweet at times today, and she made several Chinatown elders happy by shouting “Gung hee fat toy!” in my father’s dialect as we cruised the streets in search of red envelopes. In those moments, it is easy to forgive Kina her transgressions, to treat her with kindness, shower her with cash, and feed her noodles.
Her hair is a mess, though. We’ll deal with that when the moon is full again.
Happy lunar new year to all of you—be prosperous, eat noodles, give money to kids.