Happy Lunar New Year! Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Monkey, and we’ve been enjoying reading the beautifully illustrated Red is a Dragon and Round is a Mooncake in preparation. We also reached out to nonprofit consultant Jenny Chung Mejia to ask about how she, her transportation engineer husband Genaro, and their children Sophia (3.5 years) and Genaro Jr. (aka Naro, 16 months) celebrate the new year.
For the uninitiated, can you begin by explaining the key differences between Lunar New Year celebrations and significance compared to Western New Year?
The Lunar New Year is based on the moon’s trajectory (which varies) rather than the set 365 day calendar. I believe the origins of the celebration are founded on the agricultural calendar, specifically the end of winter and beginning of spring, and the desire to seek a successful harvest in the coming year. To our family, it is a focus on spending time with family and friends and wishing each other good health, good luck, and prosperity in the coming year.
What are some of your favorite Lunar New Year memories from childhood?
I enjoyed going to watch the celebratory lion dance in Chinatown, eating amazing Chinese feasts, and of course, receiving red envelopes with lucky money inside. 😉
How did you introduce Lunar New Year to your children?
We have the book Sam and the Lucky Monkey (one of our favorites). For the past almost three years now, I have gone to Sophia’s school and read it to her class and given her classmates and teachers red envelopes with a lucky one dollar bill inside. We also have traditional Chinese outfits that the children wear when we gather with family.
What traditions have you enjoyed sharing with your kids? Have you and your husband created any “new” traditions with them?
The classroom story time and red envelopes had become somewhat of a tradition for us with respect to Lunar New Year. As far as other traditions, as a way for our children to get to know their bicultural Chinese and Mexican background and the family members who do not live as close, we create family calendars each year with pictures of our immediate and extended family members and give those out as gifts to everyone.