How we celebrate Lunar New Year as a mixed race family

Jamie shares how her family of diverse cultures comes together to celebrate Lunar New Year.

Celebrating Lunar New Year with a mixed race family

People are often surprised when I tell them my mom is Chinese; my sisters and I totally take after our Italian and Scottish father! When we were growing up, Chinese New Year wasn’t celebrated traditionally in our home because mom’s family lived outside of B.C. But we did get some lucky money! And I recall my mom buying mandarin oranges and setting them beside a small buddha she had from her mom. I felt a tad disappointed as a girl because we didn’t embrace our Chinese culture as much as I would have liked.

Today, however, my three daughters are growing up celebrating Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year with my husband’s side of the family. I feel super grateful they’ve been fortunate enough to grow up having a traditional dinner and celebration with their grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins.

See also: How to prepare for Lunar New Year: A Millennial’s Guide

Family photo of children celebrating Lunar New Year
Photo Credit: Jamie Dunlop-Khau

I don’t think my daughters fully understand some of my in-laws’ Vietnamese cultural practices, but then, I’m not really sure if my husband (who was born in Canada) does either.

What I do know is, even if my children do not fully understand these cultural practices they will always remember them. And I hope that when they grow up they will do their best to continue some of these traditions with their families.

My husband’s family celebrates Lunar New Year (in Vietnam this tradition is called Tết) by visiting the temples to honour their ancestors, cleaning their house and preparing a traditional family holiday dinner with dishes such as Banh Chung (sticky rice with pork in the middle), canh mang (bamboo soup), chicken, spring rolls & so much more.

See also: Ketchup and Soya Sauce is an intimate exploration of interracial relationships in Canada

Lunar New Year dinner food
Photo Credit: Jamie Dunlop-Khau
Vietnamese spring rolls
Photo Credit: Jamie Dunlop-Khau

After dinner, the adults hand out lucky money to the children, and everyone wishes each other “Chuc mung nam moi!”

It’s so cute hearing the cousins pronounce this to one another in their Canadian accents.

I feel so fortunate to have in-laws who enrich their grandchildren’s lives with tradition, culture, the best food and most importantly, unconditional love. Although there’s a language barrier between them, the grandkids are loved and adored by their Vietnamese grandparents because of their kindness, generosity, and affection.

Family photo at Lunar New Year
Photo Credit: Jamie Dunlop-Khau

We have a diverse range of races and religious beliefs on my husband’s side of the family. In fact, some of our nieces and nephews are Muslim, others are Christian, and my in-laws are Buddhist.

Our family Lunar New Year dinner is a reminder that we can all come together and love one another despite our differences.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi to each and every one of you, from our diverse family to yours.

See also: How Chinese superstitions influenced my mixed Asian identity

*This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2022 with additional links and image descriptions.

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