It started off innocently enough, a couple of pictures in my cheong sam for a little Chinese New Year cheer. And then in the corner of my eye were these big red lanterns that my maid had set out for us to hang should we get inspired.
(I’m thinking my mom may have something to do with that.)
(She’s been hinting that the Chinese elves need to come and work their festive. :p )
This is probably the reason why I sometimes need to ban myself from myself.
Chinese New Year for me is like Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter all rolled up into one. It is love and laughter and so much fun as my
cousins and aunts and uncles and grandma and neighbors and friends and second cousins twice removed and in-laws and family all gathers for a feast.
It is the type of awesome and magic that’s hard to explain except to look across the room and find your people, your safe place, your happy and your light coming together to say that you are mine and I am yours and I am so so “lucky”.
Red packets are a big deal, as children it’s a highlight, as adults you feel like a human ATM, but there is no amount of money that can ever replace that sacred place of when love and family collide.
For fifteen days, I soak up these moments and keep it safe for a rainy day…when the storm clouds gather and it is dark outside, when the world scares me and I am unsure of my place and my purpose.
Because I still remember the homesick loneliness of being too far away to come home for reunion dinner, and grandkid after grandkid spread across different continents calling home for those precious minutes that the phone is passed around auntie to auntie, uncle to uncle, cousin to cousin, grandparent to grandparent. And for that moment, the love and belonging fills up your insides with the warm and fuzzies because home is in your heart and they are all here with you no matter where you are.
My grandpa loved this time together. He would smile so big and so proud and you could just watch his heart explode as all his kids and grandkids gathered together. I love my childhood memories of this precious time and it is what I cling to the most when I miss him.
And every time, I see fireworks, I think of my grandpa hoarding the biggest, fanciest, prettiest, fireworks for us because we would squeal and laugh and ask more! more! and he would make fun of us yet be the first to light them.
We have an open door policy in our home. It means that there is always room for one more, there is always enough love and enough food to feed and comfort someone else that just needs family for this holiday.
I’ve been humbled to be a participant. To be taken in and adopted by “family” over the holidays, when the flight was too far to make it back to school or work on time and I will eternally be grateful. It’s been the saving grace and the salve that has comforted my aching heart over many Chinese New Years and Thanksgivings and birthdays.
So as we get ready to ring in the year of the horse, even as I procrastinate putting up CNY decor to the very last minute, I set out extra placemats just in case someone needs a space to feel safe and less alone.
As I giggle with my ever-patient husband that gets my crazy taking all these silly pictures with his fancy camera phone, I am reminded that among all the traditions I hold sacred, I hope to pass this lesson to our children most of all.
That love and family is important. That kindness matters. That home will always be here for you no matter where you are in the world and that God always has a plan so infinitely bigger than your mind can even conceive.
And because I couldn’t get the boy in front of the camera, I’m sneaking in this one taken on our wedding day. When he kept my kung-kung close, the man he never met but honored by wearing his coat to our Chinese Tea Ceremony so I would have a part of him on the day I missed him most of all.
Don’t wait, make those memories this year. Store them up for a rainy day and turn back for that one last hug.
From our family to yours,
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Dress: Peter Kor (Tangs)
Shoes: Charles & Keith
Hair: Number 76 Style (review here!)
“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
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