Celebrating Chinese New Year

It’s great that people celebrate Chinese New Year, no matter what their nationality. With that in mind, I am re-posting below, with the author’s permission, a wonderful blog from YummyMummyClub.ca about one woman’s reasons for celebrating Chinese New Year.

Check out YummyMummyClub.ca for food and decor ideas for your Chinese New Year celebration. 

Why I Celebrate Chinese New Year

It started with egg rolls when I was a kid

by: Evelyn Hannon

I am a Jewish woman living in Canada, and I am Caucasian. So, why in the world do I celebrate Chinese New Year?

Well, the simple answer is—I love all things Chinese. This affection didn’t develop overnight, nor did it develop lightly. My love grew from small likes to happy memories to intense experiences and gradually blossomed into full-bodied, full-blown LOVE.

To begin, when I was a kid in Montreal, Lee’s Garden on Park Avenue served the Canadian Chinese food my family and I ate on special treat nights. I actually grew up believing that all kids in China snacked daily on garlic spare ribs and countless egg rolls dipped in sweet plum sauce. Oh, how I envied them and their supposed diet. I loved that food.

During high school, my friends and I popped into that same restaurant walking home after school. Twenty-five cents bought us a Chow Mein Sandwich—a hamburger bun filled with steamed bean sprouts covered in a mysterious pale brown sauce. Lee’s was our teenage hangout with lots of young love and flirting going on. I remember eating that snack as slowly as possible so we could stay as long as possible. Such sweet memories!

My interest in Chinese culture blossomed much later, in my thirties. This time, it wasn’t associated with plum sauce or young love. It was Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that intrigued me. Acupuncture, Qi Gong, massage, the use of herbs—these were medical practices thousands of years old, and in Canada, doctors were not yet embracing these ideas. But I read everything I could get my hands on. In 1989, I applied for a research grant to go to China to study the ways in which Chinese women were treating patients with TCM. It was a lark. I never expected anything to come of it. However, I did hope.

Oh my goodness! Imagine my surprise when I received a note on government letterhead awarding me $17,000 to go to Beijing and investigate my interest. That money took me to Asia for a month—my first time in Beijing, a city of what seemed like a gazillion people on bicycles. I was considered a “visiting dignitary,” and assigned a limo driver and translator who accompanied me everywhere I needed to go. There were also two local mentors tasked with watching over me during my visit. The first, a wonderful woman who was the Head of Beijing’s School for Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the second, her mother (in her eighties) who was the Honorary Chair of the Chinese Red Cross. I remember sitting on a couch in the elder woman’s tiny apartment, holding her hand, and (via my interpreter) telling her that even though we couldn’t speak directly, I could feel her words in my heart. Sappy, perhaps, but I had fallen totally “in like” with the people, their kindness, and their wonderful sense of humour. And even though I didn’t understand the words, I loved the sounds and the rhythm of the Chinese language. By the time I headed home, I was really hooked.

Fast forward to 2001. My younger daughter lets me in on a very big secret. She is adopting a baby girl from China. And would I travel to China with her to receive the newest member of our family? Of course I answered with a resounding, YES. Two months later, in a hotel room in Xi’An, we sat on chairs facing twelve orphanage nannies holding twelve crying baby girls.

My daughter’s name was called. She walked to the center of the room. Lotus, Xiao Ai her given daughter was placed in her arms. After three years of waiting, a dream fulfilled and one more very delicious family member for me to love.

Seven years later, Lotus and I skyped with her mom and dad who are in China, this time to receive Bexie, Fu Li the second little member of the Chinese contingent in our family.

You can imagine the excitement when the plane from China touched down in Toronto and the whole family got to meet this new, sweet little Chinese darling face to face.

And so now, in our mixed Jewish, Christian, and Chinese family, we get to celebrate all the major holidays. In November it was potato latkes for Chanukah, in December, Christmas dinner, and today, we are looking forward to Chinese New Year at the end of January. There will be a wonderful dim sum meal in Chinatown, cheering when the menacing dancing dragon comes into the restaurant and, of course, I’ll be joining all the other parents and grandparents of Chinese children handing out the traditional gifts of money tucked into Chinese red envelopes. Gung Hai Fat Choy—Happy Year of the Horse everybody!


The Red Envelope – Guidelines on giving Lai See

When I was a kid, one of the best things about Chinese New Year was the red envelopes my parents and their friends gave me. Tucked inside the small decorated envelopes was one or two dollars or maybe even five (a fortune in those days). Now as an adult, I’m expected to give out red envelopes. The rule, as my parents had explained back then, was to give money to children and anyone who was unmarried, (usually to someone no older than 25). Society has undergone a huge shift since then and the rules have become blurred, but thanks to Molalacompany.com this guideline makes everything perfectly clear.

Guidelines on Giving Lai See on Chinese New Year

One of the Most Important Things a Writer Can Do

One night last week, I was sitting and staring at the computer screen as usual. No, I wasn’t working on my next book or the play that I started writing last year, but it was one of the most important things I could do for my writing career.

You see, a couple of days before that evening, I had one of those scary moments when my writing life flashed before my eyes. I was sitting in my usual chair with my laptop working on an outline when the screen blanked out and then a blue screen with white text momentarily popped up. The only words I caught before it blinked out were “hard disk” and “crash”.

Writers' Tip

My heart stopped. I could feel the blood draining from my face. Flashing before my eyes were the files I had stored on the hard drive, possibly gone forever. Logically, there was no need to worry about the stories that were already published, but I kept drafts of them in various stages as a reminder I suppose, of the hard work that went into them. Then there were the gems of ideas in the beginning stages that I envisioned as someday being fully formed novels or plays or scripts. There were outlines and maybe two or three chapters of bad plots and weak characters that would now never see the light of day, the short story collection that I planned to publish as an e-book, photos from the past several years and videos that I had created for special occasions.

Did I back them up? I couldn’t remember. I did at one point copy the file folders onto a USB key, but had I done it recently? These thoughts flew though my mind in a matter of seconds, and then, miraculously, the computer rebooted and was back up and running in a couple of minutes.

So that was why I was staring at the computer screen that night last week, not writing, but setting up an external hard drive that is now connected to my laptop. The only New Year’s resolution I made this year was to get my writing life in order and finish a couple of these projects. Now I know that it includes making sure that my work is backed up. And, my laptop has a date for a check-up with a computer technician.

Have you ever had any close calls?

YA novel GUITAR HERO awarded 3 out of 4 stars

Self-publishing is a long, hard road to take but very rewarding. The work doesn’t end once the book is finished. I’ve learned a whole new set of skills which has enriched my experience as a writer. So to start the first blog of the year on a positive note, I’m thrilled to share a review of my book, GUITAR HERO which was awarded 3 out of 4 stars from CM Magazine:

Guitar Hero, the latest book by Day’s Lee, is a welcome addition to Canadian young adult fiction and, more broadly, the expanding body of Chinese Canadian literature that focuses on Chinese immigrants and their Canadian-born descendants. Narrating the story from a teen’s perspective, Lee draws readers into the Chinese Canadian community’s lived experiences and explores the meanings of being “Chinese Canadian” within the urban context of multicultural Montreal. 

…what makes Guitar Hero a particularly interesting story is its narrative perspective. Focusing on David Chang and the struggles he faces as a 16-year-old growing up in the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, the novel presents him as someone who is shaped by a variety of cultural and social influences that are, in turn, impacted negatively by his family’s difficult socioeconomic circumstances.

 …readers will find Lee’s novel engaging and will identify with David’s desires and frustration throughout the story…”

 You can read the entire review here.

Guitar Hero by Day's Lee