Fish for Lunar New Year

CONTEXT: TL is a fourth year student at USC. He is originally from Connecticut and first participated in this tradition with his family. He continued in this tradition marking the Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year until he moved to USC for college. TL’s parents are both from Thailand, and he does not feel very connected to this tradition, but participated for many years for his dad.


TL: So every year, before college, on Chinese New Year, even though my family isn’t Chinese, my dad always made us have fish because I think that there’s something about fish being good luck in Chinese culture. So we always had fish…. He’s always really impressed by the China in the 21st century and he tried to convince my family to move to China when I was younger. Well, my dad’s grandparents immigrated from China, but he grew up in Thailand. I honestly don’t think it’s because of his family lineage, I think it’s just because he just really likes China and wants us to embrace Chinese culture, even though I don’t consider my family to be Chinese. So we ate fish for dinner and that was the main dish. I don’t think there was a specific kind of fish, it differed every year. It was the whole fish. In Chinese culture and in Asian culture you eat the entire fish as a family. But there’s no chance I will continue to do this.


I think this family tradition, started by TL’s dad, is one way of mirroring a culture he has a lot of respect for. Based on TL’s description and interpretation, it is possible that TL’s dad tries to incorporate other aspects of his understanding or interpretation of Chinese culture, whether from his grandparents or from his own time spent in China, into his own life, and that this tradition is one way to involve his family. It is also a tradition to mark a specific time of year, which is significant because it brings family together at least once per year, with predictability. TL’s family does not otherwise celebrate Lunar New Year in any way, or celebrate any other Chinese holidays. After some research into the Lunar New Year, I found that it is not only celebrated in China, and though it is not a public holiday in Thailand, it is still celebrated as about 15% of the population in Thailand is of Chinese descent (as of 2023). Being that TL’s dad is from Thailand, it may also be that he was around the celebration in childhood and wants his children to share in that experience. TL does not plan to continue this tradition as he does not wish to celebrate the Lunar New Year because he says he does not feel a strong connection to it.