Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Wrong Hallmark Holiday

I think today is Valentine's Day. It's funny how when you live in a place that has no access to Hallmark... some holidays just fade away into memories of cute little candy hearts and red paper doilies on the window. Instead, I am listening to what sounds like the aftermath of a WWII battle as the canon-like fireworks continue to work their way through the city streets. Outside I can see the piles of red paper strewn about the icy sidewalks and parking spaces, where faithful celebrators last night steadily filled the air with ear-splitting crackling til the wee hours of the morning. In China, the New Year is upon us.

We've spent the last couple weeks preparing in our own small way for this all-important Chinese holiday. We attended some festivities with our Chinese friends, we gave nice bonus and some much needed vacation time to our faithful Ayi, we crafted some New Year Greetings and decorations for our home, and last night we made the traditional New Year's Eve fare, jiaozi.

Traditional dumplings use pork, beef, or vegetable combinations. But we decided to go with our own American flair and fill them with anything that sounded good to our Western-stunted influenced taste buds. 
The homemadeinchina menu: 
Italian jiaozi (ground beef, spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella cheese!)
Greek jiaozi (chicken, spinach, feta cheese, tomato, olive oil!)
Yummy Jiaozi (cream cheese, crabmeat, sweet chili garlic sauce and deep fried!)

If you know anything about Chinese culture, you may know that you could study it forever and always be learning more. I feel like I have barely begun to scratch at the surface of the veneer that covers the bubble that this mass of cultural understanding sits in. So, instead of worrying myself about that... we made lanterns... and sorry excuses for some Chinese characters (but the kids had fun, it was interesting, and I felt like a good mom for about an hour).

The Chinese character pronounced "fu" means good luck, blessing, or happiness. We chose to emphasize the blessing part of that and made small greeting cards for our friends and family back home.
During the New Year, this symbol is written with black ink on red, diamond-shaped paper and is plastered all over the doorways, walls and windows.

When our day was finished we had a house that resembled the war zone we felt we were in with the booming of fireworks outside (you have never experienced fireworks until you have been to China during the New Year when the arsenal that is usually only available in the U.S. to county and city officials is here unleashed to your each and every next door neighbor). In spite of the mess, we had experienced another important Chinese value, which is the wholeness or completeness of a family together. We had... and had not. I thought of all the people who were not with us. I thought about the people I know who have broken families, missing families, no family at all. I was thankful for the way we are given surrogate family members, people with whom who we may not share the same bloodline, but are surely as close in spirit as any I would call my kin. I was thankful for the way that God has surely given us blessings as faithfully as he has every other year. 

Happy Chinese New Year my friends!
Guo Nian hao

May the Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious unto you
The Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace

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