A story has recently gone viral on the Chinese social media platform WeChat. It’s actually not a story so much as a series of videos that show Chinese students who study abroad recording their parents’ reactions when they return home to celebrate Chinese New Year — unannounced.
As seen in the video, almost all of the mothers scream and throw their arms around their children, while most dads smile quietly, standing to the side. It’s a cultural thing. Most Chinese dads are shy about expressing their love for their kids, even though they would sacrifice everything for their children.
I was on the Canada Line when I came across this emotional video. It had me sobbing and laughing at the same time. The passenger seated next to me probably thought I was having some kind of mental health episode — and, in a way, I was. As an immigrant who doesn’t have any family members here, my feelings about Chinese New Year are complicated.
Chinese New Year, for me, has always been about spending time with family and relatives. We used to gather around the dinner table to share stories about what we had experienced in the past year. After a few rounds of storytelling and a good laugh, we would toast each other and drink some alcohol.
My favourite new year’s eve traditions were receiving “red pockets” (little red envelopes) and setting off firecrackers at the stroke of midnight to scare away evil spirits and celebrate the coming new year.
When I was a little girl, the anticipation of Chinese New Year was agony. I couldn’t wait for my grandparents and other relatives to spoil me with red pockets. Each red pocket was usually filled with a $50 bill. I could collect up to $500 by the end of the night. From a 10-year-old girl’s perspective, $500 was like winning a $60-million lottery jackpot. Unfortunately, my parents always made me hand over all the money before I even had a chance to dream about what I’d do with it.
“We want to save the money to pay for your education,” was my parents’ constant refrain after taking away the money. I would be angry and upset — until I came to Canada in 2015 to pursue my studies. Maybe they didn’t cover all of it, but those red pockets did help pay for my tuition.
Today, since I have no family here to gather with or give me red pockets, the new year festival might just be a regular day, but it isn’t. There are so many events happening in Richmond during the Chinese New Year, I’ll be busy checking them out. In fact, the city is even more vibrant than my hometown, where stores close during this time of the year.
And I can’t say that I feel particularly sad or lonely, either.
Rather, I feel tremendously fulfilled to work on stories with my team members. Just having the opportunity to share my memories of Chinese New Year like this is a privilege.
Living in a multicultural country has allowed me to see the best of both eastern and western worlds – I can celebrate both Christmas and Chinese New Year.
On that note, I wish you all a happy Chinese New Year filled with joy and celebration.