Chinese New Year

Interviewer: Are there any cultural celebrations or holidays that you engage in?


Informant: Chinese New Year is a big part of my culture and it’s a big holiday that I usually spend with my family. We usually celebrate at my grandmother’s house and the first thing we do is exchange red envelopes. And my grandmother makes “long life noodles” and then “gold bars” which are actually spring rolls that symbolize money.  There are also eggs with oysters for fertility and then we have a Chinese candy to stand for a sweet life.


Interviewer: What do the red envelopes symbolize? And is there any part of the celebration that you directly do or a role that has been passed on to you?


Informant:  The red envelopes stand for good fortune and they are usually filled with cash money, and the elders of the family or the older generation like parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles hand out the envelopes.  And then my grandmother used to make spring rolls every year but now my sister and I are the ones who make them.


Interviewer: And how long does the celebration usually last?


Informant: We usually just celebrate one the actual day of Chinese New Year, or if it doesn’t fall on a weekend, then we celebrate on the Friday of the closest week.  My grandmother also gives everyone a stuffed animal of whatever animal or zodiac sign of that year.


Interviewer: And do you have a special meal or prayer or ritual?


Informant: We usually do a special meal and my mother’s whole side of the family comes to my grandmother’s house for dinner.


Interviewer: And that meal is the same as the noodles and the spring rolls and?


Informant: Yes, it’s the same just larger portions so that the whole family can eat.


Interviewer: Wow that sounds good! Thank you for sharing.


Background: The informant is a sophomore at Loyola Marymount University studying psychology.  She is half Chinese and half Caucasain and her grandparents on her mother’s side immigrated from China when they were young.  Her and her sister have been raised with many of the traditional Chinese holidays and often share their customs with friends.  For the informant, this piece was relating something that takes place every year and is often a way for her to spend time with extended family.  It is also a reflection of the Americanization of the holiday given the way her and her family celebrate.


Context:  This interview was done while in the car on the way to Disneyland to take part in the Chinese New year celebration theme.  She has been celebrating the holiday since birth and her family has also been celebrating the holiday both back in China and in the states.


Analysis: It was not the first time I had heard of the various traditions but the first time I understood their meanings and reflected on the importance for my friend’s culture. It is also fun to the different variations of the celebration and the added twist of giving out stuffed animals or engaging in other things.