Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Missing Out on Chinese New Year

This week, most of Asia — and many other people around the world — will be welcoming in The Year of the Rabbit.  Traditionally, Chinese New Year is celebrated with lots of food, parades and firecrackers, money envelopes, and red clothing. Preferably, new red clothing.

Not that I grew up participating in this tradition of new clothes each New Year. During my Midwestern 1970's childhood, we really didn't do much to celebrate Lunar New Year, except for a few red and gold paper symbols being taped on the kitchen cabinets, and perhaps driving into Chicago for a Taiwanese community banquet. Which is not to say that shopping is not deeply engrained in my heritage.

Some of my clearest memories from early childhood involve going to Sears or JC Penney for back-to-school shopping. Garanimals — with their animal hang tags showing you which striped turtlenecks match which corduroy pants —if I was lucky.

Toughskins, if I was not so lucky. With their stiff industrial fabric and large square pockets, they managed to look like pants that should be worn by a construction worker, even when done up in the girliest pink.

But many of my clothes didn't come from a local mall. A couple times a year, our family would receive huge cardboard boxes, tied up with strapping tape or twine. Inside, were things sent from my grandparents in Taiwan: packages of instant noodles, can of pickles, dried plums and beef jerky. Mixed in with these supplies were clothes, probably from the Taipei night markets: scratchy socks with lace at the edges, thin cotton dresses, and t-shirts with (often non-sensical) English sayings on them. The clothing was often wrapped in plastic, but even so, the herbal smells of the foodstuffs managed to permeate into the fabric. Even so, it was always exhilirating to open the packages and wear the new clothes.

This week, I'll be ushering in the Year of the Rabbit, without any new clothes. I have plenty of nice red tops and sweaters, even some shiny red mary janes, that are still in great shape. And I think my year will be more prosperous because of it.

P.S. — Did you notice? It's February. I made it through one month of my Year (Almost) Without Shopping!


  1. Love the red shoes! One month and a day down, less than 11 months to go - You can do it! And, very cute kid picture!

  2. Thanks, Lucy! It's funny, how I don't fully appreciate what's already in my closet. Taking a break from buying things helps me to get creative with what I already have.


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