Pin It
Saturday, February 9th, 2013

My Chinese New Year: Welcoming the Year of the Snake

By

As a first generation American, you always watched other families sitting around a Christmas tree or carving a turkey, consoled by watching reruns of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But Chinese New Year—that was different. That was my holiday, the one that made waking up early exciting, slowly lulled awake by the smells of burning incense, and the 10 special dishes my mom prepared, dishes with names that alluded to prosperity and luck. In a new society where new roots had to be established, it was the holiday that rooted us the most—harking back to the generations before who observed it with the same rituals: the fire crackers, the lacquer-red tones, the thimble-sized wine cups placed before ancestors, the four-word benedictions wished upon children by adults. It is the day on which family gather and truly appreciate each other, forgiving each other for petty grievances of years past.

 

Snake-from-Myanmar-2

 

This year is the Year of the Black Snake, the sixth sign in the Chinese zodiac. This 2013 Year of Snake symbolizes steady progress and attention to detail. Focus and discipline will be necessary for you to achieve what you set out to create.  People born in the Year of the Snake are reputed to be thoughtful and wise and to approach problems rationally and logically, seldom instinctively. Such people are complex beings, they are clever and often on the quiet side. Their business is always going well, but they sometimes can be stingy.  If anyone has a sixth sense, it’s those born in the Snake Year. People born in the Snake Year love to appreciate beauty.

 

Instead of celebrating with my family in New York’s Chinatown, for the past nearly five years I have spent the Lunar New Year in Myanmar. Myanmar is a Buddhist country, officially with 3% Chinese population or about 1.6 million.  In Yangon, the former capital where I am based, there is a bustling Chinatown dominated by two main ethnic groups–Cantonese and Fujianese–and a couple of smaller ones. In years past, this neighborhood was marked by divisions and violent clan fights. Two Buddhist temples with very different architecture stand at opposite ends of the neighborhood, marking the divide.  Today, it is a much calmer scene, and Chinese New Year brings out the procession of drums and cymbals, the dancing dragons, the bright orange, red and gold hues, and the special sweets that are made just for this occasion.  Thinking of home, I often head to the Cantonese Guanyin Goddess of Mercy temple, speak to the temple keepers, light incense sticks and watch families come in to consult their fates with the temple wise men.

 

Snake-from-Myanmar-3

 

In the evening, I will dine with a Chinese Burmese family that has the habit of hiring its own troupe of lion dancers.  As I think of my own family this day, I am also grateful for the new friends and networks that have filled my life in my second home

© 2013, SiuSue Mark. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


The West's Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

How the West sleeps is different from the rest

Birth, Loss and In Between

Life after devastation

6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan

Our top picks for Muslim and non-Muslim kids alike

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Born to Chinese parents, SiuSue Mark grew up in New York City’s Chinatown, back when hipsters hadn’t moved into the neighborhood yet. After receiving her Masters of International Affairs from Columbia University 10 years ago, she embarked on a career in international development. Having worked in Myanmar for nearly five years, she has developed broad understanding of development dynamics in Myanmar. Currently with a governance initiative, she is managing research in a number of new initiatives, among them land tenure security, industrial development, and local governance initiatives in ethnic states. And she teaches yoga in her spare time. To facilitate her communication across cultures, Sue speaks English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish. She is also conversational in Burmese.

Leave us a comment!

1 Comment
  1. CommentsMargarita Borja   |  Wednesday, 13 February 2013 at 1:26 am

    This is such a nice web page!! Thanks so much! I try to raise my daughter Isabella in love and enthusiasm for other cultures. At home we speak English (my boyfriend is from the US), Isabella’s dad is German and I´m Ecuadorian, so she speaks fluently 3 languages. And it works!! Nobody should be scared of raising their kids in as many languages as possible, in contact with cultural variety. And this web page is an awesome support in that!
    She just celebrated the Lunar New Year at school, it was GREAT!!! She got her name written in Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

    My mom recommended this web page, such a great advice!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Ric...
From How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000
HI! I love your website! Just read your review of books that teach about culture and food! I can't wait to try some of the recipes you've share...
From Armenian Recipe: Apricot Tart
Please, refrain from using "western /western society" for anglosaxon countries. Western can be Mexico and Spain as well, anything on the west side of the world is western ...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
We've tried to make use of, but It doesn't works by any mean...
From African Parenting: The Sane Way to Raise Children
I'm back. Sorry, I stopped caring for this magazine for a while and forgot to discuss the meat of the matter. This article, as well as the linked article from 2011, fails to discuss cultural norms ...
From What Confused Me Most about Brits
Fascinating. I have been to Germany and met this guy who was soo rude! This article explains everything!! Since all Germans are so terribly rude it should come as no surprise that I should have met ...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@ Josep. How could you possibly comment on how Germans treat people if you have never even been there? A three-day stay in Berlin and a one day stop-over in Frankfurt was enough for me to see the ut...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I am trying to find a Sikh triangular Nishan Sahib flag and haven't found one. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag
I have tried to buy a Sikh triagular Nishan Sahib flag and had no luck. Do you know where I can find on...
From Vaisakhi Craft: Make a Flag

More Tradition and Parenting