OK. It’s the real New Year’s, and it’s time to party like it’s 1999. You haven’t done New Year’s until you’ve attended a Chinese (or in my case, Taiwanese) New Year’s Party. You get there at eight when the party’s supposed to start, and then you sit on your asses and wait. And wait. And wait. Why do you have to wait so long? Because Taiwanese people are always fucking late! To everything! It drove me absolutely crazy when I was a kid, so much so, when I was able to get places on my own, I would show up at least a half-hour early.
This is The Year of the Rabbit. Traditionally, The Year of the Rabbit is a time for rebirth and fertility. I’m not just talking making the babies, though that’s a part of it, of course. It’s a year in which you should focus on your creativity and nurture it whenever you can. The air will be pregnant with possibilities (and you just may be, too! With ideas and kids, I mean), and it is up to you to make the most of the situation*.
When I was a kid, I attended the Evangelical Formosan Church in the Twin Cities (EFCTC, main branch, LA). Every year, we would have to come up with a kids’ program for the New Year’s Party. Sometimes, we would do a dragon dance like in the picture depicted above. I was the teaser (the blue-haired guy, though I had green hair) so I got to hit the dragon with a fan. There was no question of me being part of the dragon because I didn’t play any more nicely with others back then than I do now.
One year, I played Mina Turner. I sang a Taiwanese folk song in Taiwanese (love lost, much drinking, the usual) as a rock song. It was challenging, but kinda fun. Fortunately, this was in the days before videotaping everything and uploading it to the YouTube was all the vogue so I don’t have to worry about me in my ’80s rocker gear on the nets any time soon.
There was a lot of wasting time, I remember. I always brought a book so I could read if things dragged, which they invariably did. At some point, we teenagers would drift downstairs. The event was held in the St. Paul campus student center, and they had a bowling alley in the basement. We would bowl or play video games or shoot pool while the adults had their program. I don’t speak Chinese or Taiwanese, so for me, watching the adult program was pure torture. I was an awkward teen, and interacting with the others wasn’t the funnest thing, either, so I often times would just slip away and read my book. If one of my parents found me curled up in a corner reading, he (usually my father) would not be too happy about it. I was making them lose face by not interacting with the others. Most of the time I would just ignore him hectoring me, but once in awhile, I would give in and go back to whatever the other teenagers were doing. I don’t remember those parties with much fondness–I would rather have stayed home by myself*** than attend.
I went to the party well into my twenties. I may have gone in my early thirties, but I don’t really remember. I have mixed feelings about having to go to these parties. Nowadays, it’s all the rage to be ethnic or to be post-racial. When I a was a kid, though, the main goal was to assimilate. I was embarrassed to go to the New Year’s shindigs and be so DIFFERENT than everyone else. I tried to mitigate my differences by wearing pale blue sweaters (and the dreaded blue eye shadow) and feathering my bangs, but, alas, I was still Taiwanese.
The parties weren’t all bad. There were three positive things about them.
- Kick-ass food. Let’s face it. If there’s one thing Taiwanese/Chinese people know how to do, it’s motherfucking cook, y’all. You had to get in line pretty quickly or wait for an hour, but it’s worth it. And, because we’re Asian, there’s always plenty.
- Hong bao, or the infamous red envelopes. It’s a tradition for older people to give younger people money in red envelopes on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the new year. When you have a lot of relatives, you can rake in a sweet penny. Most of my family is in Taiwan or the East Coast, though, so I never got as much as I could have.
- I got really good at Ms. Pac-Man and I got to scope out the cute college boys.
That was it, though. All in all, I would have preferred to have simply bypassed them. Now that I’m nominally an adult and my parents live in Taiwan again, I pretty much do to Taiwanese New Year what I do to all other holidays–ignore it. Or, rather, I would, except my mother schedules one of her two biannual trips to the US during this time. She’s going to be a bit late, but she’ll be here. Which means I have to clean. Here is a post I wrote at my place the last time I had to do a massive clean. I am a slob with OCD. This means I let things get horrible until I *have* to clean, and then I. cannot. stop. If I disappear from the face of the internets for the next few days, you’ll know it’s because I gave in to the impulse to sit in my clean fridge and shut the door behind me****.
Xing ni quai le, bitchez. Here’s hoping The Year of the Rabbit sucks a whole lot less than did The Year of the Tiger.
P.S. I could not find a non-sucky video of a Happy Chinese New Year song. I also could not find a video of the Taiwanese folk song I sang, in Taiwanese, rock-style one year as Mina Turner in part because I don’t know the English name of it. Therefore, I chose a video by Shonen Knife instead because it’s cute, they’re Asian, and because I can.
*I just made up that entire thing about what is supposed to happen in The Year of the Rabbit. All of it. I can do that because people will take what I say about Asian things at face value. It’s one of the few perks of being a minority. You get to speak authoritatively about your culture, and people won’t question you too readily. The best year to be born in is the Year of the Pig**. See? I just did it again.
**My year, of course.
***My brother and I were latchkey kids since the time I was in first grade and he was in fourth. It’s not as if I didn’t have practice staying home alone.
****My brother ASSURES me that I can’t lock myself in that way, but how would he know, really? It’s not as if he’s ever tried it.
Cross-posted at ABL’s place.