新年快乐 (xin nian kuai le), 恭喜发财 (gong xi fa cai)! Happy Lunar New Year! it is the most important holiday celebrated in many Asian communities, and this year, 2021, is the Year of the Ox. Each year is represented by one of the twelve zodiac signs: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig. Depending on the zodiac, it is said to determine your luck for the year. In Asian culture, the calendar year is based on 12 lunar months instead of the widely-used solar calendar. Since ancient civilizations needed to keep track of time to align with agricultural production, they looked to the moon for guidance because they did not have proper astronomical instruments at the time. The moon’s phases and revolutions told them the time of the month, which was necessary to optimize agricultural tasks. As they worked hard on the fields every day, the new year holiday was the only time they rested and celebrated with their families and loved ones. To this day, everyone in the family gathers to eat together as a reunion to welcome the new year with joy and love. Oftentimes, New Year’s Eve dinner is the most lavish meal to bring abundance, prosperity, and fortune for the new year to come.
As a Chinese American who spent the first 8 years of my life in China, I could still remember the festivities back home with all my family members. All of us gathering together in a small house, eating, talking, and laughing with one another was one of my most vivid memories of the new year celebration. My grandmother was always the head chef and would start cooking early in the morning to prepare all the food for the New Year’s Eve dinner. After we ate, we would watch the national Lunar New Year holiday program on TV, featuring all the famous Chinese celebrities. When the kids would get bored, we bothered our parents to take us out to get firecrackers to light up for good luck. The most important of all rituals for the kids were the red envelopes. The elders in the family would give red envelopes to children after they pay respect for good fortune. I can go on and on about the festivities and traditions! However, during a pandemic outbreak, it is hard to feel the joy of celebration in person. Luckily, with current technology, we were still able to connect and celebrate together even though we live across the world from one another. This year on New Year’s Eve, I video-called my grandparents in China and ate with them as they were having dinner and I was having breakfast with my parents and siblings. It was a unique experience for all of us, especially my 93-year-old grandfather, who could barely understand the use of smartphones. The technical innovations allowed us to reunite as a family. Even though it was virtual, we were able to welcome the new year together just like the old times. I am so grateful for the connectivity that technology brings to the world around us and helps us overcome the loneliness and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The connectedness of technology is especially crucial at a time like this. Ever since the pandemic started, there has been an increase in anti-Asian racism throughout the nation. Although Lunar New Year is a time of celebration, recent news of hate crimes towards the Asian American Pacific Islander community has made it a heavy period for us in the community. Within the past month, there were many attacks on elderly Asian Americans. Some were left with brutal injuries, and others did not make it to welcome the new year. Growing up, I was always taught to respect our elders and to look up to their wisdom and guidance. Seeing them now as targets of racist crimes simply because of their ethnicity is so saddening. Their passiveness and silence due to language and cultural barriers do not mean weakness.
I am so glad to see young Asian Americans use social media to get exposure and draw attention to these cases. Leveraging the power of technology and the platform that I have here, I would like to join my fellow Asian Americans to educate those around me on the dire circumstances of our community. Many of us are in constant fear for our safety, and it is up to all of us to speak up against racism. I hope that as media coverage for our community increases, we can bring awareness to the discrimination and unite in solidarity, not pointing fingers at each other. We want justice for those who have suffered and reassured safety for everyone else in the community. As we continue with the new year celebration, let us come together, not just the Asian American community, but as Americans to stop hate crimes of any kind from happening. Let us welcome the new year with love!
Here are some ways we can all help right now:
- If you are a witness to any hate crime towards the AAPI community, please report it at https://stopaapihate.org/
- If you are in areas with high hate crime rates like California and New York, you can find opportunities to volunteer as a chaperone for the elderly!
- Donate to organizations that help fight AAPI hate crime
- Raise awareness on all accessible media platforms about the issue
- Speak up for people who might not be able to do so
- Educate yourself and others on the history of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia
- Engage in inter-racial conversations and strive to be anti-racist
- Participate in reading and responding to resources for learning and action such as:
Thank you for reading!