This year the actual start of the lunar new year slipped by quietly in our house.
For the past several years we've celebrated by making homemade ~ if you count using pre-made wonton wrappers homemade ~ dumplings with friends. But this year it just seemed like there was a lot going on. So we had grilled cheese sandwiches and soup for a quiet night at home.
And so we let our time at the local CNY festival count for welcoming in the year of the snake.
My crew spent several hours making paper lanterns, cutting coiled, paper-plate snakes, and coloring snake pictures that day. In addition to the crafts, we ate lots of yummy food, and the stage constantly had dancers showing their talents.
The highlight of the festival though, to my children, was seeing our neighborhood friends.
As the kids get a little older, we seem to be learning the waltz of giving them encouragement to explore their heritage or the space to *just be* American. We desire for them to be proud of who they are and where they come from, yet want to allow them to be who they are as Chinese Americans, with their own emphasis on whichever part of that they desire.
It all seemed easier back when I made most of their decisions for them. Haircuts and new silks, yes; making dumplings, of course. But a decision as simple this year as asking them if they wanted to sport their silks brought indecision.
All quickly said yes for the day we attended the festival ~ to a place where Mommy and Daddy were out of the majority. But only three initially chose the festive wear of their birth country for the actual first day of CNY when we were going to church ~ a place where *just American* is the norm. The fourth waffled back and forth until realizing that all siblings were indeed wearing them.
Some days I wonder what it is like for them to grow up looking like they belong to one culture but living another. The girls like to watch the ethnic dancers, but would rather take ballet than Chinese dance. The boys don't seem interested in language beyond knowing the Mandarin words for noodles and dumplings so that they can eat.
I often can't decide if I should back off and let them decide how far to investigate their birth culture or if I should push them toward exploring it more fully.
And then there's the whole superstition and ancestral worship thing...
It's a dance Ian and I are learning, following the lead of our children instead of taking it on our own.
As it ended up, we did follow a few lunar new year traditions without even trying.
I get out the broom daily ~ there are four kids and a large dog tracking dirt and goodness knows what else across our floors all the time ~ so we did sweep out the bad luck on Lunar New Year's Eve. We may not have found time for any haircuts, but each of the kids wore a new ~ at least different than what they wore to the festival ~ silk outfit to church that day. And we consumed most of a three pound bag of mandarin oranges that day, that's got to count for something, right?
What I do know is that I have four of the most precious Chinese American kids living under my roof. I'm open to how much or how little they want to embrace their birth culture. We'll dive into ethnic dance or ballet, language lessons or not.
What is certain is that I couldn't love them more!