Happy Lunar New Year, friends!
Today, on the 28th of January, is the first day of the lunar calendar, else known as the Lunar New Year. For a lot of us, Lunar New Year is a very important day – one that is filled with celebration, spending time with family and the ones we love, and eating a lot of delicious food. For those of us with Chinese heritage, we call Lunar New Year Chinese New Year — and it’s the Year of the Rooster too! However, today is also Korean New Year, Mongolian New Year, Tibetan New Year, and Vietnamese New Year. (And a happy new year to you too, my friends!)
I am super honoured and delighted to have three book bloggers contribute to today’s Festive Book Recs – Lili, Jeann, and Alex – and share with you what Chinese New Year means to them and what they do to celebrate! In the end, Lili, Jeann, Alex will also be recommending two books each that relate to Chinese New Year.
I hope you enjoy this post!
What Chinese New Year Means To Me
Every year, a single red envelope marked the beginning of Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is basically what the name suggests: New Year of China. It is first day of the Chinese lunar calendar and marks the new year. Because most of my background is Chinese, the other part being Filipino, I do celebrate this holiday with my mom’s part of the family. It is an extremely important holiday, if not the most important one I celebrate all year. The day signifies a blessing to luck and longevity for the rest of the year. I am showered with red envelopes and a table full of food. It is most of all the day I give thanks to all the blessings and fortune I have received from last year’s Chinese New Year.
How I Celebrate
It’s the day where family and close relatives fly in from Taiwan and greet us for dinner on that very special night. It’s the day where my family and I wear red, put red lanterns and couplets outside our door and make traditional Chinese dishes.
My favorite tradition of the day is one that I think is rather unique to my family’s way of celebrating. What we do is hide slips of paper with various numbers labeled on them in the dumplings. We make the dumplings from scratch and that allows us to slip the papers into the filling before wrapping them and frying them. Don’t worry, no one’s ever choked on a slip of paper! They are placed in a certain way that make them easy to distinguish when you bite into the dumpling. And when we do finally take a bite, if you come across a slip of paper, that means you win however much money is labeled on the paper! I once won $40 from my dumpling!
Alex’s Book Recommendations
WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON BY GRACE LIN
- Perhaps one of my favorite childhood books of all time, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a homage to my Chinese culture and the stories I was told as a kid.
- Read this book if you want a glimpse into some of the Chinese myths that are often told as children stories.
- In this book, we follow a young girl who goes on this incredible journey to bring her family good fortunate. There is a flying dragon and even a talking goldfish.
- The story pulls from ancient Chinese heritage and folktale that the author read and was told when she was younger.
- As a plus, there are some beautiful illustrations in the book that grab your attention!
Find Where The Mountain Meets The Moon on Goodreads.
THE YEAR OF THE DOG BY GRACE LIN
- Another by Grace Lin, but I believe this book is much more focused on Chinese New Year the holiday. If you’re looking to learn the specifics of the holiday and what exactly is done, I definitely recommend this book.
- How the holiday is celebrated is different for everyone, but I found myself nodding my head in agreement to everything that was done in this book. For those who do celebrate, this book will be so relatable and will tug at your inner heartstrings.
- This book tells the story of Pacy Lin, as she celebrates the Chinese New Year with her family. It follows a young Taiwanese-American as she realizes that she is quite “different” from everyone at school and she tries to fit in.
- For a young girl, she is quite resilient and the story transforms into a tale of not only celebration of one’s culture but self-discovery.
Find The Year of the Dog on Goodreads.
Chinese New Year (also Lunar New Year) is hands down, my favourite holiday celebration because of how fun, happy and festive it is! I love the lion dances, the fire crackers, the red and gold decorations and the general happiness and good luck spread during the Chinese New Year period.
Each year, my family gets together for Chinese New Year dinner to celebrate with hung baos (red packets) given from the parents to us kids. Instead of Christmas where we give each other gifts, we get money to wish us luck for the year ahead. However, this is the last year where I’ll get money because after you get married, you have to give hung bao to all the kids in the family younger than you. I have 4 nephews so they’ll be lucky next year! I love getting together with my ever growing family and celebrating over delicious food! The food is probably my favourite part of Chinese New Year, from the nian gao (delicious sticky brown sugar cake) to the dumplings and everything in between.
As a Chinese growing up in Western countries such as New Zealand and Australia, it’s often easy to forget our heritage especially because of where we live and the holidays that are celebrated in the West. But Chinese New Year is definitely a holiday where all the stakes come out, from kung fu demonstrations, to yum cha at restaurants, to fire crackers and fireworks for such a festive holiday. It makes me proud to see every culture who celebrates Lunar New Year in such high spirits and I love how this holiday unites us.
Jeann’s Book Recommendations
MAO’S LAST DANCER BY LI CUNXIN
- I recently read this #ownvoices book and it was such an inspirational read about a young boy from Communist China who finds success in ballet in the Western world.
- It really demonstrates the poverty that his family went through from struggling to feed themselves to eating meat as a luxury.
- It also shows us the Maoist national pride in Communist China, how everyone thinks they are serving their on God through Mao. It’s almost brainwashing from the lengths that the Chinese people go through to serve him and it turns pretty dark at times.
- In the book, they celebrate Chinese New Year and Cunxin always goes back to his poor village to celebrate it with his mother and his family. I love the pride that they have over him and how no matter how much food he has, his mother’s cooking is his favourite. No matter how poor they are, they still put together dumplings which is Cunxin’s favourite.
Find Mao’s Last Dancer on Goodreads
FREEDOM SWIMMER BY WAI CHIM
- This one’s fiction, but it’s also similar to Mao’s Last Dancer in that it’s set in Communist China under Mao’s rule. It was fascinating seeing the young Red Guards carry out Mao’s dictatorship in the simple village in China.
- Li and Meng form a deep and honest friendship even though their roots are completely different – one from the City and one from poor simple village life. I loved the bright humour and how they supported each other through everything and entrusted each other with their secrets.
- While China has a lot of dialects, I loved seeing the author’s note at the front where she says she’s only picked out a specific one that is familiar to her. This definitely makes a difference and I loved seeing the Chinese language used throughout the novel.
- The hope for a better life and escaping all odds through swimming to Hong Kong was captured really well in the novel and it really gave me all the feels. I shed a tear or two at the end.
Find Freedom Swimmer on Goodreads
Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of the lunar calendar and is a festival about luck and good fortune for this year. Like most New Year’s festivals it includes the celebration with family, food, and a tradition of red paper envelopes.
Growing up my parents would always buy themed decorations for my adopted sister and I as well as red paper envelopes. There were few Chinese Americans in my high school, I think there was only one other in my school. So the majority of people in my school had no idea it was my new year, so I sometimes had to give a presentation (especially in grade school).
Being an adopted Chinese American, this time of the year gave us all a chance to celebrate my heritage. We would decorate our house and my parents would present us with red envelopes before school. Normally we did not celebrate the other customs or holidays because we did not know about them. Isolated from a large community of Chinese people or even Chinese adopted children, it was hard to feel connected. This led me to be pretty ignorant of the history of China as well as the customs. I also became very alienated from my Chinese background. However, Chinese New Year is always a special time of the year where I can try to honor that part of my background.
Lili’s Book Recommendations
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU BY CELESTE NG
- The story is focused entirely on the family dynamics and drama, allowing for a more thorough portrayal of their immigrant/second generation experiences as Chinese Americans. This results in rich characters whose ethnicity plays a driving role in the plot line.
- For them, their identity being Chinese American is an essential part of their character development. It causes problems for them, but also shapes their relationships both to each other, within the family, and to strangers.
- They experience the same sense of isolation and, for the younger generation, similar comments of racism. However, the largest effect of their ethnicity comes from their parent’s experiences of blatant racism and the ambitions they have for their children.
Find Everything I Never Told You on Goodreads
THE WANGS VS THE WORLD BY JADE CHANG
- Similar to the children in the story, China, to them, is this ambiguous idea of a ‘homeland’. It seems surreal and many times they are not aware of their ethnicity as Chinese Americans.
- The experience of the eldest daughter, forgetting she is a Chinese lady, resonates so deeply with me and how I felt growing up. I remember one incident clearly where we were talking about derogatory slang for various ethnicities and how ‘cracker’ was sometimes used for Caucasians. I remember blurting out, without thinking about it, why no one had called me that. I kid you not. It took me a couple seconds, and my friend’s expressions to realize my mistake. But that was the extent to which I felt my own ethnicity had been erased, the extent I was making to ‘fit in’. So her comment hit home for me.
Find The Wangs Vs. The World on Goodreads
I want to express my biggest, biggest thanks to Alex, Jeann, and Lili for taking the time to help make this Chinese New Year book recommendation post possible. Thank you, the three of you, for sharing this part of you and for also recommending some great books to read! I have some of these books on my to-read list, and will be reading some of these over the fifteen days of Chinese New Year.
Be sure to pay their blogs are visit! Alex, Jeann, and Lili have wonderful blogs, so be sure to check them out! Visit: