dating out of your culture all fun and games until you have to explain to your significant other why you are filling dirty nickels inside a dumpling or wearing a red thong in mid-January. Let’s face it: The Lunar New Year is filled with traditions that might be hard to relate to if you didn’t grow up in an Asian household.
My mom is Chinese and my dad is Mexican, so he had a lot to do with my mom’s culture (and vice versa). As a lonely person living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, there have been many times when I have met people of color outside of my own culture and had to teach them how to celebrate the Lunar New Year as well. . Unfortunately, since I can’t keep a man down, I’ve had to give the spiel every year, and I’m getting tired.
On top of that, Lunar New Year can be isolating. It’s a holiday associated with so many tender memories of family and home, and it’s hard to feel like no one around you is really enjoying it. It’s even worse when your significant other doesn’t remember it’s Lunar New Year and you have to passive-aggressively remind them. So, those who are lucky enough to fight the baddies of Asia which celebrates LNY, I decided to make your life easier. This is my advice, as well as some friends’, about what you can do with or with your significant other to show them that you care about the holiday.
Go Out To Eat Dumplings Together – Or Better Yet, Make Them At Home
Lunar New Year traditions vary widely across the diaspora, as the holiday is celebrated in China, South Korea, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. But for many families, there is one constant: dumplings. I’m only talking about a plate of 10 or so dumplings, which would be a regular size for a regular day. I’m talking about excessive, borderline girth-lobster the size of dumplings.
Just as many Americans remember having too much turkey or mac and cheese on Thanksgiving, we have memories of bursting at the seams on Lunar New Year from eating entirely too many dumplings. So new memories can be a thoughtful sign.
Surprise them by Wearing Red Underwear
This is a detail that would surely bring a smile to others’ faces. Wearing red underwear is not only sexy, but it also shows that you are paying attention to the smaller details. When we were growing up, my mum always made sure we wore red underwear good luck and maximize luck in the new year. Now that we are adults, the tradition takes on a new and fun form.
Don’t Buy Traditional Clothing Without consulting them first
If you’ve been thinking about wearing a qipao or any other traditional Asian clothing to celebrate, it’s best to ask your partner how they feel about it before you do.
“If appropriate, ask them for help in finding the right outfit,” Liliana Rasmussen, a half-Chinese friend, tells me. “And remember, it’s always better to ask than to assume.”
Wearing traditional clothes without asking your partner can be a huge salvation. They may not have any connection to that part of their culture, so they may feel fetishized or alienated.
Give Them a Red Envelope (With Literally Anything Inside)
No Lunar New Year would feel complete to me if I didn’t get a red envelope. Usually, extended family would give us red bags filled with money. I know what you’re thinking: In the economy?
Times are tight and inflation has reached the doomsday rate, so if you can’t afford to break the Benjamins, you’d better put something else into it like a gift card, concert or plane ticket, or something they can use. and that feels intentional. It’s the act of being handed a red bag and opening it that feels special, rather than the cash itself. You can buy the red bags in your nearest Chinatown if you live in a big city or further afield Amazon.
Deep-Clean their House
This is pretty self-explanatory on any given day, but this suggestion — courtesy of my friend Amy Zheng, who runs an Asian-American and Pacific Islander collective called Fools – especially significant during the Lunar New Year. That’s because you’re supposed to have a clean house to rid your space of bad luck.
Don’t Mansplain Anything
Sure, you’ve done some well-intentioned research on the interwebs about the Lunar New Year, and you want all that information to flow to you. I’ll almost give you a pat on the back right now. But the worst thing you can do is to tell them that the way they celebrate is “wrong” or doesn’t match the more traditional way of doing things.
“As an Asian diaspora, many of us are disconnected from our ancestral cultures and traditions. So maybe remember that it is a sensitive matter for your partner to participate ‘rightly’ or ‘wrongly’ in traditions, because for many of us, our knowledge or language ability is limited,” Vincent Chong, friend in Brooklyn New York , tells me. “Especially as queer and trans-diasporic and mixed people, tradition doesn’t make much room for us. So we must be active in building a new culture where we are. There really isn’t a road map.”
Christopher Chin, who lives in New York, feels the same way some of us might feel from the holiday. “Not everyone who celebrates LNY here in the US has the privilege of understanding or being connected to the cultural significance of many of the traditions,” Chin tells me. “One piece of advice is to remember to center your party and be aware that people may feel different ways to celebrate it.”
This advice is pretty consistent across the board. Feeling like your partner is really weird about you and your personal traditions make you feel good, according to my mom.
Again, remember that the Asian diaspora is huge and incredibly complex, and each family has their own way of doing things. Sometimes we make things up, and that’s okay. Don’t question the validity of other people’s way of celebrating the holiday because it’s authentic because it’s theirs.