Thinking about my childhood, I have fond memories of making decorations in my elementary school classroom in January/February. The smell of tempera paint and stick glue (was it really made out of horses?) still fills my nostrils when I think back to those days. We would paint signs with “Gung Hay Fat Choy” in large red letters, complete with dragons and firecrackers and cute drawings of the current Chinese Zodiac animal. Now that I think about, maybe things were a little stereotypical and definitely over-simplified for my non-Asian peers to understand these customs. However, the handful of Asian kids in my school and I really enjoyed the holiday. We always went to a parade. I remember red envelops with coins or cash tucked inside given to us at my friends’ homes and that money was always given out in even dollar increments. So, at a minimum, we made off with $2.00, which was an absolute fortune to a seven year old. I couldn’t wait to walk home from school and stop at the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital cafeteria for a chocolate milkshake with extra whipped cream or caramel sundae with chopped almonds, not peanuts.
This isn’t to say that my parents and I celebrated Lunar New Year. They are Filipino immigrants and I was raised Catholic. But without anyone telling me, it was quite obvious that I was more like the other Asian kids than I was like the other students at Monterey Park Elementary School. And we were truly a minority, I could count the number of non-white students in each of my classes on one hand. The Asian kids were all second generation or brand new immigrants. Most of our families came to the U.S. to pursue higher education and some left to escape war-torn countries and oppression. Either way, we were all growing up with parents who were bilingual and grand-parents who may or may not have spoken English. We were stuck between becoming Americanized and acculturated or hanging on to the family/cultural traditions, victims to incessant teasing by our white friends. “Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at these!”
But back to Lunar New Year…
2014 Lunar New Year is on January 31, 2014. Lunar New Year Day is the first day of the first lunar month of Lunar Calendar
To truly welcome Lunar New Year, some people follow the tradition to open every door and window at midnight. Not sure I will ever do that, even if I’m wearing my hot pink snuggly Hello Kitty fleece PJs. But the idea is to let go of last year and let good fortune flood into your home.
My mom said that to welcome in the New Year, grandma always bought a new sack of rice before New Year’s Eve to signal the continued abundance of food for our family. Grandma also used to hit all the pots at midnight. Filipinos believe in making a lot of noise to scare off the evil spirits. But my favorite story was hearing that my grandpa would light firecrackers inside the house, at the same time. Close your eyes and picture that scene and the racket, just smell the flash powder. And my mom added, “Can you imagine how dangerous that was? We survived, though.” Yes, you sure did survive and I love the stories you have to share because of it.
This year is the Year of the Horse. Susan Levitt gave this quick summary on-line: “The Wood Horse year is a time of fast victories, unexpected adventure, and surprising romance. It is an excellent year for travel, and the more far away and off the beaten path the better. Energy is high and production is rewarded. Decisive action, not procrastination, brings victory. But you have to act fast in a Horse year. If you are not 100% secure about a decision, then don’t do it. Events move so quickly in a Horse year that you don’t want to gallop off in the wrong direction.”
On New Year’s Day, look forward, not backward, as this is not a time to even talk about the past. Keep positive thoughts in your mind about the future. This year, give love. Remember karma? Well, the Horse can be impulsive, “act now and think later”. Be sure to radiate positive energy so impulsive actions won’t bite you in the ass. Don’t be a douche, be good to others, give more than you take and do it all with love.
New Year’s is a time for new beginnings and endless possibilities, just as my new blog is a vehicle to record the endless thoughts, feelings and emotions that run through my head. If you’ve read this far, mahalo nui loa/salamat po (thank you very much) for hanging in with me, I really appreciate it. There will always be a message about Diversity and Inclusion, as my career is truly a part of who I am. In addition, I nerd out about things like “Star Wars”, “The Walking Dead”, “Downton Abbey”, “Scandal”, “24” (can’t wait for the re-boot) and “Elementary”. My daughter turns 16 this month and her high school experience an endless source of material to write about. I’m waiting for the ink to dry on my divorce papers so a story or two about me dating is a definite possibility in 2014. And, I stay active with fun things like paddling outrigger canoes, dancing hula, wogging half marathons and occasionally kicking and punching at the dojo. On some days, this blog will be a mindless string of run-on thoughts and other days, I will say something profound and prolific. The only thing I can promise is that it will be my truth, the truth of Jennifer “Jae” Pi’ilani, a DiversityNerd.