Then at some point in my twenties, Chinese New Year became a chore. Not any garden variety chore, but a cold-sweat-inducing family obligation that I try hard to avoid.
As an adult, Chinese New Year is an annual nightmare, for the following reasons:
1. I find it sucks when you are single
Relatives feel that they have a right to judge you because you do share bits of D N A, so, really, it's almost like they're judging themselves.
Typically, the extended family gathers for Chinese New Year and spends an inordinate amount of time together, during which people get bored and focus their restlessness on judging the younger generation, particularly those who are single.
Singledom means a lack of responsibilities and responsibility-free people need to be reined in by the wisdom of elders, or they will be reckless with their directionless lives.
Here are some unavoidable conversations at Chinese New Year. By "conversations" I really mean monologues by one Wise Elder or another, fired away at a particular Single Younger in a trance-like manner:
"Why don't you have a boy friend? If you have a boy friend, why don't you get married?"
"Why are you not dieting at least a little bit? Second Cousin Yong Yong will have to start bringing clothes from America for you."
"What happened to your hair? Blue is not such a good color for us Chinese people."
"Are you saving up for an apartment? Why not? The most important thing in life is to have a roof over your head. You don't want to be homeless, do you? What if the economy collapses again? At least you will have an apartment."
"Why don't you get a better paid job? You are wasting your talent. You will regret your life."
2. I am employed
I have an income now, so twenty bucks here and there doesn't make a huge difference, but I still retain that child hood anticipation for the red packets. It's just a bit disappointing when I open up an envelope and it isn't concealing a massive check.
And it's the guilt from feeling disappointed that makes me really hate Chinese New Year for making me hate myself.
It's just like being unable to conceal your let down expression when un wrapping that pair of socks at Secret Santa parties.
Gifting is a heart warming tradition. It's the thought that counts. I am not supposed to care. I am a bad person.
There's even worse.
Chinese New Year gambling is just out of hand.
Now that I have a job, I'm expected to bet real money at The Mahjong Table, a no man's land filled with hidden agendas, treacherous scheming and Janus- faced traitors.
If you beat your elder relatives at mahjong one too many times, beware their wrath.
If you lose on purpose to your elders and are unable to skillfully conceal your purposefulness, you risk looking patronizing.
It will put them in a bad mood and lead to a vengeful "what are you doing with your life" interrogation later. See point number one.
If you're simply crap at the game, you lose a load of money and will probably be judged for being not very intelligent. See point number one again.
3. I like good food
When foreigners make jokes about Chinese eating weird foods, I cringe.
When Chinese New Year comes around, I'm the one making the damn jokes.
At this time of year, we do get some incredible festive dishes.
And then there are those odd ones that make you feel like the taste, texture and nutritional content of food have all become irrelevant -- we only eat for superstitions.
Lots of Chinese New Year foods are auspicious in meaning, but atrocious in taste.
c e • a year ago −
I truly appreciate Ms Li’s article on why she dreads Chinese New Year and I admire her for providing a well- written, thoughtful honest opinion. Notice I said opinion. I happen to be a black man who has a wonderful Chinese girl friend who came to the United States as a teenager. I go to Hong Kong often and have spent countless hours with her relatives. Truth to tell, I have witnessed the very things that Ms. Li cites in her article. Folks, these things happen. People are questioned about the personal aspects of their lives in public. An aunt will ask you about your salary as easy as she can request a new cup of tea.
Co lin Bo • a year ago
Chinese New Year isn't bad except for:
-crazy Tiger moms, crazy aunts, and grandmas.
Jade I c e • a year ago
Agnt Or ng • a year ago −
This is my seventh Chinese New Year in China. This is a celebration that I understand better and better every year. The excitement starts building weeks before the actual day. The preparations (food, drink, and fireworks) are part of the excitement for me and some thing I never experienced growing up in the U S. I come from European heritage and never experienced the kind of celebrating that goes on here at Chinese New Year. I love it! The best part is being with "family". Generations of family gathered together to celebrate.
I also understand what the author of this article is saying, but, in my experience, you get that same treatment on any day of the year (advice/well- meaning questions asked by family members) and exotic and strange foods are a normal occurrence here.
Personally, I would dearly miss it if I couldn't be part of it any more.
Over Rated Agnt Or ng • a year ago −
Strange -- this is my 3rd Chinese New Year. It drives me insane!
No sleep because the fire works are non- stop! (Not the awe some light show fire display, but the loud fire crackers that will continue for 24 hours straight)
The markets are closed for a full week; it becomes a pain in the rump trying to buy food.
Every body and their dog expects a 'red envelope'
My Chinese friends have all told me that it's no thing but an excuse to get drunk, lose money on Mahjong, and buy presents for family members. (And you'd better spend big --- heaven forbid, lose F A C E)
Kelvin M a k Over Rated • a year ago
1) Leave for a holiday.
2) Prepare better with a stockpile of food and D V Ds.
3) Ear plugs.
4) 3 years. You should know better.
Al page Over Rated • a year ago
I'm with you. It's my fourth new year in China. I swear the fire works are getting bigger and louder every year, and starting earlier too. We made the mistake of coming back from Thailand in order to observe the "festivities". I wish we had stayed longer in Thailand!
M C sucker • a year ago
Every one seems really harsh on the author. I get where the author is coming from, Chinese new year is both dreadful and exciting, same as how a lot of people feel about Christmas in the West.
I do have to say i'd much rather be getting red packets than gifts l o l.
O_ Pinion l • a year ago
Love it! Families. They may have their challenges. But we are lost with out them.
hwang te • a year ago
Gong Xi Fa Cai. I enjoy Chinese New Year. I look forward to sponsor with my home town friends Chinese New Year buffet dinner for old folks especially those who are poor. I look forward to have Chinese New Year eve dinner with my children and their families. CNN just want to undermine our great feeling for Chinese New Year.
Bob C l • a year ago −
Chinese New Year is just like Christmas. You give gifts to people you don't necessarily like, you eat weird foods you normally don't eat, and you spend more time with relatives you don't care for. It's great as a child, but gets stressful as an adult, but gets fun again as you get older. Some people like it, some people don't. It depends on what your past experiences with the holiday are.
Every culture seems to have a holiday like this.
H a n • a year ago
CNN will only publish writing that some how some where saying China is not good. This article is an example.
Da son wood • a year ago
I am of Indian origin living in Hong Kong. All that I can say is that I love Hong Kong, I love China, I love the Chinese people, I love their culture and traditions. Period. Kung Hei Fat Choi Every body!!!
L I n d a • a year ago −
As some one of Chinese heritage, I am deeply offended by this opinion article. As an adult, with a paying job, I look forward to Chinese New Year every year. It's a time to spend with family and eat delicious food.
G u e s t • a year ago
Sounds not much different than Christmas.
Jie Zhou • a year ago
As a Chinese, I don't agree with your opinion.
1. For the problems of relatives, it's just the result of the culture. Some of them are really care of the next generation, but perhaps doing too much. This happens in Chinese new Year just because they can only see each other at that time.
2. For the food you mentioned, although there are some stories about why we eat some special food at some time. But most Chinese people really like those food and may eat them at ordinal times. I understand that you do not like those food.
3. I hope you can ask many Chinese people before you trying to summarize their opinions. But not just after asking one or tow people.
Wind bourne l • a year ago
Interesting woman, with an interesting story.
Hopefully, she comes to America and writes about U S A from a H K/Chinese P O V.
I think that she would have some mighty interesting things to say.
China Ren • a year ago
In my 11 years here I've learned the best way to survive Chinese new year is to go some where else. If that's not a viable solution, then stay at home and turn the TV up loud to try and drown out the constant explosions from outside
Chin kon in ja • a year ago
Author must hate being Chinese... she'd rather be white... how sad..
Jack L S • a year ago
Expecting red packet...You are making an income, you're an adult, you are the one that is suppose to give out red packets.
susan Jack L S • a year ago
Only you're married. Of course when you reach certain age even you stay in single, no body will give you red pocket money.
Mark Tran • a year ago
First off, it's Lunar New Year. Second, it's a time for families to come together. Yes, u might be young and single, but in 30 years you're going to look back and regret you're childish thinking and complaining. Get over yourself!
Cas p rd • a year ago
I'm sure your parents appreciate what a spoiled child you were and what a petulant whiny adult you have become
Kev kmw@hot mail.com • a year ago
This article is typical of a Chinese losing her appreciation for her culture
Be not so quiet • a year ago
This kind of article can get published very quickly in western media, and this author knows this too well. It seems to be an efficient way to make a living.
Burrito Jones • a year ago
Every CNN article is, " I Hate..."
Tung Ngu yen • a year ago
IT IS LUNAR NEW YEAR! WHY YOU GUYS STILL CALL I T CHINESE NEW YEAR? CNN AND YOU GUYS NEED TO R E S P E C T OTHER ASIAN PEOPLE!
Scott l l • a year ago
I feel the same way about Christmas.
Solar Flare • a year ago
Just another opinion piece.