On Facebook, these are some stories on my newsfeed:
– Happy Chinese New Year!
– Lion dance at work
– chuc mung nam moi!!! =D
So Chinese New Years, what does it really mean? Just another work day, to most.
To lots of unmarried American Born Chinese kids, it’s basically work plus the above three images, with an emphasis on the last one.
You might be thinking, what work? Sit there and refuse the red packets being sent your way two or three times, then ???, then accept and profit?
Well yes, and no. There is a real chore and dread of going to family dinners, seeing relatives, being compared to similar in age and sex, the very complex cultural practice of bringing fruits to family, friends, and workmates/classmates. Go to endless meals with people who fight for the bill even though we all know who’s supposed to pay. Do the thousand year old rituals. Kneel to your ancestors. Castrate yourself in front of others. All that stuff takes a toll. I’m not just being a cynic here. Yes, those robotic Chinese you see do have feelings about this, some negative, but it’s done anyway. Because, for us unmarried kids, it’s like work.
Today’s proclivities are similar to the horrors our western friends express during the holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas. Except for unmarried Chinese kids here, there is a payday. Not the kind of bullshit western payday like happiness, bonding with family, and hugs, I mean a real payday. With cash. And the more family and friends, means the possibility of more cash.*
In very practical and realistic terms, if you live in a nice house, then other families will come over. If your home is not as apt for guests, then you will go to their home, or invite people to dinner.
Parents then each give a red packet(s) to the kids of the other family. There is second-guessing, yes. There is honesty on people’s financial state. There is blatant discussion on what one can afford to give or cannot afford to reciprocate. This is the kind of discussion that creates anxiety.
To receive an awesome gift, or for your kids to receive a red packet with, let’s say for example, a $100 bill, means that you, as the parent must give $100 or something equal in value. To not match and reciprocate is a serious loss of face.
Loss of face is a fate worse than death.
But hey it’s okay, let’s not think about it, as today parents pay out and ABC kids receive. Live it up, you guys. Buy that exhaust for your Mercedes C-Class, or that sick carbon fiber whatever for your BMW, kids. You deserve that Double DIN touch-screen DVD player in your Lexus.
Now for Chinese immigrant kids in HNL (who often are married and have kids of their own, as they marry and pop em out early there), today is more about a different few images, which I’ll list below. 新年快樂，恭喜發財！
*of course this means you will end up paying out more when you’re married. Yin Yang, yall.