It's lunar New Year today and in our city of Richmond where over 50% of the population is of Asian decent it is a BIG deal.
We have had a few laughs at the office as most of the staff are Asian but most are not very observant of the traditions of Lunar New Year. There are so many traditions such as cleaning your house on New Years Eve to sweep out the bad luck, wearing all new clothes on New Years Day, hanging signs over doorways to bring prosperity and fortune, the handing out of little red envelopes with cash or candy in them.....
Funnily enough 2 people really went all out in observing these traditions today ..... and we are both caucasians!! I have on a silk Chinese jacket my friend Joyce brought me back from China a few years ago and my colleague is wearing all new clothes as is her blonde, blue eyed son. My Asian staff have been chuckling about this all day and I think they are feeling a bit bad that they have not been so observant. There has been much discussion of how their parents and grand-parents would not be happy with them. I am not sure what my Scottish / Irish / British / Canadian Grand-parents would make of me today either!
I bought Chinese take-out for them all for lunch - we let two of the Asian staff do the ordering but I was clear they needed to order some "white people" chinese food. All afternoon yesterday as they poured over the menu they made comments in voices loud enough to carry to my office "Chicken feet would be yummy", "Sea cucumber soup, Mmmmmm" "Bitter Melon Root, ooooo" and on and on until I told them unless there was sweet and sour pork and BBQ fried rice on the order the deal was off..... They laughed. They ordered some "white people" dishes and some that were new to me and they were all very good.
My colleague Linda Yuen and I went to fetch the food - the entire conversation was in Cantonese except the word "debit card" which I produced and I got a couple of glances at my jacket. We ate lunch in my office. Linda (who is chinese) in jeans and a sweater eating with a fork and me all dressed up and eating with chopsticks..... we laughed about who was more Chinese!!!
I guess this is the great richness that is the Canadian Mosaic - a great tapestry of cultures with rich and lovely traditions - and great food!
I have learned so much about Asian culture from my colleagues and am grateful for their graciousness in sharing their lives with me.