This year was our biggest Lunar New Year so far. First of all, at 4, Danny no longer has an afternoon nap, which means lots of events which were not feasible at age 3 were quite feasible at age 4. We started going to the Lion Dance performances at Montgomery County libraries when Danny was 20 months. That year he got his picture in the Silver Spring Gazette while watching the Lion Dance performed by the Chinese Youth Club.
We have been regulars at different Montgomery County Libraries of the Lion Dance performances all put on by the Chinese Youth Club. We’ve seen them at Wheaton Library, Silver Spring Library, Aspen Hill Library, Quince Orchard Library and Chevy Chase Library. Since Danny is only 4, that is about 2 performances a year at the libraries. We’ve also seen the lion dancers at the Chinatown Parade when Danny was 20 months and it was around 60 degrees during the day of the parade.
We start reading my variety of Lunar New Year books starting in early January, right after regular New Year. First we attended the Tet Festival at Blair High School. This was on January 14 and was put on by Maryland Vietnamese Mutual Association. This was a really big get-together which was loud and crowded and maybe not the best pre-k friendly event. Danny still liked watching the Lion Dancers there, but we left early. Danny (who wears hearing aids for high frequency hearing loss) kept saying he couldn’t hear. But it wasn’t the volume that was the problem (it was very very loud), it was the fact that most of the announcements were in Vietnamese which he didn’t understand, but to Danny he couldn’t hear them.
The following weekend, there were a zillion events, but we decided to go to the small celebration at Aspen Hill Library on Saturday Jan 21, which just included the Lion Dancers performed by our friends the Chinese Youth Club. The size and venue were perfectly suited for Danny and we got almost front row seats for the event.
That was also the weekend that was the anniversary of Danny’s adoption day, his Giving and Receiving day, January 22. In the past we had not celebrated that day. The first two years, Danny was sick and the third year, Mommy was sick. But for year four, no one was sick and he was old enough to really appreciate it (well not really). We celebrated the evening before by visiting Chuck E. Cheese. Sunday January 22 was also the evening before the real Lunar New Year. So this is the evening when we should celebrate at home with friends and family.
Even though we have celebrated for years, with both our adoption agency and also our adoption playgroup and in the past families with children adopted form China, we had never actually celebrated it at home. But this year, Danny wanted to celebrate it at home.
Celebrating it at home is new for us and I feel like a fraud. It is really an American family’s interpretation of Lunar New Year, which doesn’t actually fit in anywhere. We hung up our lanterns, but I saved my Spring Happiness poems to hang up for my presentations at preschools. We cleaned up our assigned cleaning area at mid-year cleanup at preschool, but didn’t actually get our house any cleaner than its normally messy state of affairs with toys all around. The whole family got haircuts in early January, both because we needed it and in preparation for Lunar New Year. But after reading “Bringing in the New Year”, by Grace Lin for three years, Danny really wanted to celebrate at home. And because one of the pages in the book says “Mama makes the get-rich dumplings.”, Danny told me we had to have dumplings. Of course Danny and his family didn’t plan in advance, it all sort of happened in the moment (not at all like it should have, according to tradition). On
Sunday morning, after going to the bakery to both pickup our “Family Day” cake and buy donuts for breakfast (a highly unusual event), we asked Danny want he wanted to do. And given a couple of choices, one of which was “see more lion dancers”, we were off to the Tet Celebration at Eden Center. (Did I mention that Danny is obsessed with lion dancers?) Eden Center is the “Little Saigon” shopping center in Falls Church, VA. We had been there many times, but never for an event. Of course it was very crowded and mom and Danny got dropped off while dad drove to a neighborhood to find a place to park the car. We were passing through one of the inside mall areas and there was a team of lion dancers performing in the hall and going into each store. I knew the main celebration was outside, but it took 20 minutes of watching the lion dancers in that area before Danny would let us leave to go to the real celebration. There were more Lion Dancers and lots of fire crackers at the outside festival. We saw about 3 more performances of lion dancers, but never saw the promised dragon dancers.
After leaving the Tet Festival, we stopped at Trader Joes to pick up some dumplings. We have had dumplings in the past and not once has Danny ever eaten them, so our menu for Lunar New Year was: dumplings, mac and cheese, ham, broccoli and cake (the cake celebrating our Family Day).
I do know that dumplings are a Chinese dish for Lunar New Year and Danny is Vietnamese. But because of “Bringing in the New Year”, where “Mama makes the get-rich dumplings”, Danny told us we were going to have dumplings. It was like dumplings had their own PR firm. All of a sudden, not only did Danny request dumplings for dinner, but he ate a huge amount of them, after never having tried them previously. The mac and cheese on the menu was actually for Danny and he didn’t even want it.
My friend Herma, who was born and raised in The Netherlands came over here with her family when she was in college. She tells the story of their first Thanksgiving in the US. They knew they were supposed to have turkey but didn’t get any other details. So their family ate roasted turkey and canned peaches for dinner (nothing else) that first Thanksgiving dinner years ago. I sort of feel like that. We sort of got the gist, but don’t really have the details of what a real Lunar New Year feast is supposed to be. But unlike Herma’s family who moved to the country where everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, we are going to have to learn bit by bit to find our own celebration over the years. I know dumplings will be on the menu for next year, but maybe we will get some Vietnamese dishes to go with them.