Recently I was invited to Fetechinoise 2017, all their 100% profit goes towards to Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation and fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre Company. I couldn’t be more thrilled to attend. In our generation, we need to keep culture and traditions alive. We are all surrounded by culture every day, but how much do we know about our own culture? Attending this event made me think of my own culture….
The “New” Culture for a mom in 2018
Like many children who immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada at a young age. I remember struggling to keep my Chinese culture alive while trying to immerse myself in the western culture. I was fortunate to have had my mom lead the way for me for pretty much m whole life. In the Chinese culture, we have 8 important times a year to celebrate.
- Chinese New Year
- Lantern Festival
- Qing Ming Festival
- Duan Wu Festival
- Qixi Festival
- Mid-Autumn Festival
- Chong Yan/ Double Nine Festival
- Dongzhi/ Winter solstice Festival
Besides the obvious, Chinese New Year, the lantern festival and the mid-autumn festival. I really have no clue when are the other times of the year I had to be home for dinner. For the past 30 years, my mom would let me know when I needed to be home for dinner and I’ll make sure to go home to celebrate.
As I reached adulthood, this was all changed. Shortly after my wedding, my mom passed away. She was my guidance, my leader, and knowledge of my culture. As I entered into a new mother myself shortly after, I began to question how can I bring the Chinese traditions into the western culture. How do I raise my child without the guidance of my mom? There were so many questions I wish I would have asked but now will never have the chance to.
Do I keep the traditions alive by celebrating all those important festivals? I struggled with this. I don’t even know the dates myself! I had to do all the research and now I keep a note on my laptop of all the important dates and what food is needed for that particular day.
I remember going to Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. I was like a lost puppy of what to do and how much to give out Red Pockets. We were recently married and it was our turn to give out red pockets. Apparently, Hong Kong rules were different from what I know in Canada….I always thought you give out red pockets to those who are younger than you. BUT in Hong Kong we give out to anyone who’s not married, doesn’t matter if they are older than you. I also didn’t know how much to give, so I was giving out WAY MORE than I should have. Well. lessons learned. These are little moments where I wish my mom was here to lead the way for me.
A lot of life lessons of becoming an adult was after my mom passed, and so many questions I wished I could have asked her.
Superstitions when pregnant
Being pregnant was an unknown world to me. I remember telling my grandmother that I was going to prenatal yoga which she looked at me in horror and told me I should be home sitting for next 9 months not putting my leg over my head.
Example: Painting my wall black
While I was pregnant I wanted to paint my wall as a blackboard so I can write my weekly pregnancy updates. As my husband finished the wall, my dad cautioned me that I shouldn’t have done that because my child would come out “dark skin” in the Asian culture it is vital that we all have pure white skin that symbolizes beautiful. Which turned out to be not true at all, because my baby came out as white as paper (seriously, she’s gonna burn in the sun with that skin!)
I obviously did not follow any of these old wives tales, but I wished my mom was there to tell me anyways even if I didn’t believe in them.
Chinese Soup heals all
There is not a night where there is no soup on the dinner table. My mom would always make a pot of fresh soup every night. It is said to heal all and it’s very beneficial. Being pregnant, and have no knowledge of making soup. I bought “premade” ingredients from the supermarket. It was easy and I just throw everything in, add water and 2 hours later voila!
Eastern culture, the close family usually helps the new mother postpartum at home and prepares meals for her while she recovers from childbirth. There would be rice wine chicken, ginger rice, vinegar eggs and green papaya and fish soup. These were all to help with the breastfeeding.
This practice is called zuoyue, which literally means sitting for a month. I have to admit, I really really wished my mom would have been here to help, a lot of my friends had their mom live with them for a couple of months. I didn’t have the luxury and was pretty much on my own week 2. But I was blessed enough that I have my husband’s mom, friend’s mom who made me soup and food for the month. I can’t thank them enough and just how much that meant to me. Their kindness will never be forgotten.
The pig feet ginger soup
I remember my dad asking me why I didn’t make this soup. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry with his comment. A little background on me – I can probably count how many times I’ve cooked in my life before I got married. SO. I don’t know how my dad would think I would be able to make this traditional soup??!!
After giving birth, it is common for the family of the new mother to prepare traditional pig knuckle and ginger stew which is pig’s feet ginger or ginger vinegar. This is to be prepared for the house in a huge pot. The ginger is seen as important for the women to counter the “wind” created by the birthing process. It is commonly believed that his “wind” is what caused common colds and migraine in the future.
Long story short, I did not make the soup.
But! I had my friend’s mom made the soup and they delivered to me. So so so so thankful.
Living in Canada, I find it’s very hard to keep the Chinese tradition alive unless you have a group of friends that have a strong Chinese background. Sure, my friends celebrate the Chinese culture, but I wouldn’t say it is followed religiously.
How I’m trying to keep my Chinese culture alive
Speak Chinese to her
Our household speaks 80% English ALL the time, we now trying to speak Chinese more often. I would talk to her in Chinese and started to read to her in Chinese. Keeping your culture and language alive at home will reinforce in your children a sense of identity and will build their self-esteem. Children benefit from learning to value their roots and their culture. Children must be taught that we are all different and that differences must not only be accepted but also celebrated and that their culture and language is something they have to take pride in.
Cook family recipes
I’m never a big cook, and when I do cook it’s usually western meals. But ever since I got married, I’ve been working hard to prepare authentic Chinese food and the few dishes my mom passed on to me. I try to make those more often
Spend time with family and community
Every holiday, I will try to make sure she spends time with our family members, so she can listen to elder talk even though she doesn’t understand much right now, but just to listen to the tone so she can get familiar with it. When children can communicate with their grandparents and their extended families who can only speak their home language family bonds are strengthened. Immigrants who maintain their cultural and linguistic connections with their country of origin from an early age learn to speak English better and adjust more easily to their new culture.
Hopefully, this post will also inspire you to keep your culture and traditions alive while raising your children!
Thanks so much for reading,