Being a Chinese-Canadian founder has always been something I am proud of. However, I realized that I don't often share my childhood and my story with the community. So, this year, I decided for Lunar New Year I wanted to do something special and share part of my culture, and ultimately, part of who I am with you...
I immigrated to Canada when I was just 10 months old. When we first immigrated here, my mom didn’t speak english and didn't have any sort of education. I witnessed her work really hard to not only move us to Canada, but stay in Canada. She worked 3 jobs as a waitress - day in and day out - all because she wanted me to have a better life, more opportunities, and for me to see the world.
I spent the majority of my early childhood years in Canada, until I turned 6 years old and my mom decided it was time to move back to China, so I could learn more about my culture and my roots. I remembered I was crying and begging her to not bring me back. I had spent the first 6 years of my life living in Canada, building friendships, learning the culture, the language, and the way of living here - this was my home. I didn’t know any mandarin, I didn’t really know how to read or write Chinese either, and at the time, I thought to myself that I didn’t care about my culture and my roots, I just wanted to stay in Canada, the place where I called home.
But she didn’t budge, and we packed our bags and flew back to China.
Growing up in China, Lunar New Year was my favourite time of the year. School schedules were so overwhelming and my life was always packed with extra curricular activities all year round, that I felt like I had no free time. During Lunar New Year, the entire country would finally get 3 weeks off after an entire year of school and work with no breaks. Life during the first week of Lunar New Year holiday was always filled with love, laughter, food, activities, fun, and family. People all over China would make their way back to their home town and spend it with their extended family. It was the busiest yet most joyful time of the year.
For me, it was my favourite holiday of the year because we would finally get 3 weeks off school and spend every waking second being a kid. It’s the time where people spent it with family, where everyone came together, where the working class put their work aside to truly be offline and present.
I have the most joyful memories of traditions with my family, such as my mom putting up Lunar New Year decorations to welcome the New Year ahead of us, everything would be bright red because it represents prosperous, luck, joy, and wealth. It was the only time of the year where I was allowed to stay past midnight, which was such a thrilling experience to have as a kid.
This holiday was especially special because this was the time that my dad would finally come home from work, and stay at home for more than a week. My cousins would sleep over during Lunar New Year’s Eve, we would stay up watching the Lunar New Year National TV show, where there were live performances for 3 days straight, eat all the fried Lunar New Year specialty snacks from Guangdong (where I am from) like: 炒米饼，炸蛋散，煎堆，油角，米通，鸡蛋卷。
On the day of Lunar New Year, all 3 generations of our family would come together and spend the day together, starting the morning off at a rented out private room in a restaurant, and here we would 拜年, where we would have lunch together that consist of tons of delicious dishes, and the married couples would hand out Lucky Money/Red pocket to the kids. This is a moment to wish everyone a year of luck, joy, success, health and more. It was always filled with an abundance of joy, laughter, warmth and love.
But this year, will be the first year I am spending it here in Canada, alone.
My entire family moved back to China just a few months ago because of my grandpa’s deteriorating health. It broke my heart to not be close to my grandparents during this difficult time, but I know that they have a great support system back in China. The thought of spending Lunar New Year alone and away from my family dawned on me, and I felt empty.
I won’t be able to taste my grandpa’s cooking or watch him be in his element in the kitchen, I won’t be able to put our generational gap aside and spend quality time with my family, I wouldn't be able to experience my family traditions, I won’t be able to experience the feeling of being in China during a special holiday, and most importantly, I won't be able to share this time with my family.
So, I decided that I would carry on this tradition myself, and I wanted to share that with you this year.
So, I decided to go to China town here in Vancouver, BC to buy Lunar New Year decorations like 门帘，灯笼 and other Lunar New Year snacks (I was disappointed by the lack of Chinese culture and feeling of being in China especially during Lunar New Year, but that’s a story for another time). I decorated my apartment so that I could feel more at home, and I will be spending time with loved ones like my friends, god sisters, and my partner.
Having to carry on the tradition myself independently for the first time in my life made me realize how my mom must have felt putting up those decorations. The effort she made in preparing all the food, snacks, activities and red pocket money because she was proud of honouring her roots, culture and who she is at her core put me to tears.
It made me feel so incredibly grateful for the 9 years I had spent in China - learning my culture, language, poetry, history and so much more. Submerging myself fully in the experience of living in China - a place I also now call home.
All the times where I felt like I wish I was back in Canada, made me realize just how often we take things for granted until they're gone or not available.
This year, my grandpa will be spending Lunar New Year in the ICU. My whole family has been on edge, and I don’t remember the last time I slept through the night. But I know that just like any other year, we will all come together as a family to be there for each other, celebrate all the wins and work through all the hardships together, even being thousands of miles away.
As I grow older, I continue to appreciate, honour, love and be proud of who I am at my core - a Chinese-Canadian. I have learned that home isn't just a place, location, or where you were born - home is wherever you feel happy, feel loved, feel warmth, feel safe, and ultimately, home is where your heart is.
So, if you are spending your Lunar New Year or any holiday away from your family, or if you're dealing with hardships in life during this time - just know that you will get through it. Lean on the people who feel like home, do your favourite activities that feel like home, eat and drink food that feel like home, create new memories and traditions that will feel like home - you can get through this.
Happy Lunar New Year, I wish you a year full of luck, prosperity, love, and good heath. PS. Stay tuned for an exclusive Lunar New Year drop!