Happy Lunar New Years Eve! Or Chinese New Years, as I’ve always known it.
It may not be that obvious but I am actually Chinese, well, half to be exact. My mother was born in China and raised in Hong Kong. She came to Canada in her mid-twenties and had four children, all half-breeds as we call ourselves; half Chinese, half Irish. Around Chinese New Year, my mother would hang red banners with gold symbols for luck. On CNY eve, we’d have a big dinner and the next morning I would wake up and find that red envelope with my lucky money underneath my pillow.
I am aware that ‘half-breeds’ are as common as a regular horse now, but, growing up in suburban Ottawa, I felt like the last Unicorn (80’s kids will get the movie reference, if you don’t, you need to watch it). Besides my cousins and siblings, I never met another of ‘my kind’ until I was 18. It still delights me to meet another one of ‘us’ because being half Chinese is a little funny. I grew up speaking English, but I can understand a little Chinese. We ate traditional Chinese food, with chopsticks, and I’d never even heard of a General Tso Chicken until I was in University.
For my white friends, I was always The Asian. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to come over until my chores were done and I couldn’t understand their new found fascination with Sriracha, or hot sauce as I’ve always called it. My Chinese friends thought of me as white, always explaining things that I already fully understood, and I was never invited for bubble tea. White friends were always jealous of how easy I could tan and Chinese friends were always jealous of my “cute” freckles. I’m sort of like a chicken ball. White people think I’m Chinese, and Chinese people think I’m not.
So, despite never properly fitting in to the white or Chinese racial groups, I belong to my own: the mixed race. I’ll always enjoy making people guess my ethnicity (did you think I was Spanish or Filipino?), tell white people funny stories of Mum, impress Chinese people with the my ability to drink (a lot, hello! half Irish) and not turn bright red. This Chinese New years I’ll celebrate with my mixed race family, not cleaning, wearing red, giving well wishes in Cantonese and then speaking English over a huge spread of Chinese food. No General Tso chicken in sight.
Happy Year of the Ram! – KL