Celebrating Chinese New Years — So I’m Not White?

Chinese New Years is coming up soon. For those of you who are unaware, it lands on February 10. All of China–and apparently Starbucks with their cute little snake-imprinted-red-envelope gift cards–are pro-Slytherin.

2013 for Slytherin

Traitors.

Nobody likes a sneaky snake, but everybody loves a dragon!

Sneaky Snake

Dragons Forever

So, it isn’t 2012 any more. The Year of the Dragon is over. My year came and went in all its fire-breathing, magical, treasure-hoarding glory.

I didn’t really think much of it because, let’s face it, like Michael Scott, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.”

I think all the good things were supposed to be poured on me in heaping piles of gold last year, however, I am far from rich. Very far from rich. And if last year was my year, than I’m scared what this one will bring.

All the good things

Anyway, I remember “celebrating” Chinese New Years as a kid. This celebrating included my mom trucking me to elementary school with a box full of paper-printed zodiac place mats and fortune cookies. There may or may not have been some almond cookies tossed in as well, but it was so long ago I can’t recall. Honestly, I don’t even think I said anything about what Chinese New Years was. Things got passed around, zodiacs were read, cookies were eaten, crumbs were made.

It was a gas–everybody loved it. At least that’s what I remember. Maybe they didn’t–maybe they really hated it. Regardless, it was a break in our day for second snack time. But there was also another boy who was Jewish and he always brought latkes and those special tasteless crackers around Christmas. They were the best.

Minorities

I’m sad for the little kids who go to school now and don’t get to experience homemade ethnic treats (not that our fortune cookies were homemade). Everything has to be individually wrapped and processed (like the fortune cookies I brought). It’s unfortunate, really. But it is a lot safer–so many allergies these days . . . why, back in my day we just ate whatever we could get our grubby paws on. That’s probably why we’re not that smart. Just kidding.

So, even though I brought these Chinese things to school, something didn’t click. Let me step back and explain to you that I went to school where the minority percentage was, at most, 5. And that includes my two older brothers and me. We just made up 1 percent of that 5. Can you see where I’m going with this? I was surrounded by little white, Caucasian kids and nice white teachers for so much of my day. How was I supposed to notice anything out of the ordinary? That’s a lot to ask out of a child.

I had no clue I was Chinese, let alone Asian.

Who am I

Hold your chopsticks, how could you not have known you were Asian?? Is what you’re probably asking. And my only answer for you: I could give you every grain of rice in my house, and I still wouldn’t know.

All the signs were there. We ate rice for one thing, we never wore our shoes in the house, we went to a Chinese church–I mean, c’mon, kid, figure it out already!

Well, aside from those, there was the fact (is the fact?) that my eyes are brown, my hair is black, my skin is tan, my face is flat . . . I don’t know how I didn’t see it. It was looking me straight in the mirror every day, once a day. In the morning. When I brushed my teeth. Because I hated brushing my teeth at night. Don’t ask why, kids are nuts and kids are gross. (I have since upgraded to brushing at least twice a day now that I’m older and wiser–just in case you were worried and wondering).

Anyway, I don’t exactly remember how I came to the conclusion that I was Chinese, but it definitely was not the annual Chinese New Years treats for my classmates that did it.

It was, however, a rude awakening. That moment when you realize you’re not white can come as a shock to some people. Maybe not to others . . . I think I took it fairly well. But I have an awful sense of self-awareness. Apparently it didn’t kick in ’til late in my childhood. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember getting picked on or made fun of.

In my defense, I was born in America, my parents were born in America, my grandparents came to America when they were in their teens. This makes me a 3rd gen and everybody speaks English. We are not a very culturally Chinese family (whatever that means).

I’m sorry there’s no real pay off for this post. I just wanted to share my knowledge of my heritage with you. So now that we’ve established I am pretty much a professor of all things Chinese, come at me with your questions. I can give you credible answers.

Cheers! And Happy Chinese New Years!
L.

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5 thoughts on “Celebrating Chinese New Years — So I’m Not White?

  1. Pingback: Chinese New Year Is Coming! « Earthpages.org

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