quotesoutsideof your culture It’s all fun and games until you have to explain to your partner why you are filling a dirty nickel within a ball or she wears a red thong in mid-January Let’s face it: Lunar New Year is full of traditions that, unless you grew up in an Asian household, can be hard to articulate.
My mother is Chinese and my father is Mexican, so he had a lot to learn about my mother’s culture (and vice versa). As a queer man living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, there have been many times when I’ve dated people of color outside of my own culture, and I’ve also had to teach them how to celebrate Lunar New Year . . Unfortunately, since I can’t stand a man, I’ve had to give him the game every year, and I’m starting to get tired of it.
Also, the Lunar New Year can feel isolating. It’s a holiday associated with so many fond memories of family and home, and it can be hard to feel like no one around you is making a big deal out of it. Even worse is when your partner doesn’t remember it’s Lunar New Year and you have to passive-aggressively remind them. So those lucky enough to date Asian villains who celebrate LNY, I decided to make your life easier. Here are my tips, as well as tips from some friends, on what you can do with your significant other or show them you care about the holidays.
Go out for dumplings together, or better yet, make them at home
Lunar New Year traditions vary widely across the diaspora, as the holiday is celebrated in China, South Korea, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. But for many households, there is one constant: dumplings. I’m not just talking about a plate of about 10 dumplings, which would probably be a normal amount for a normal day. I am talking about excessive limit….gluttonous amount of balls
Just as many Americans remember having too much turkey or mac and cheese on Thanksgiving, we have memories of ringing in the Lunar New Year from eating too many dumplings. So making new memories together can be a thoughtful gesture.
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Surprise them with red underwear
This is a detail that would definitely put a smile on your partner’s face. Wearing red underwear is not only sexy, but also shows that you are paying attention to the smallest details. When we were growing up, my mom always made sure we wore red underwear maximize good luck and fortune in the new year Now that we’re adults, the tradition takes on a fun new form.
don’t buy Traditional clothes without consulting them first
If you’ve been thinking about wearing a qipao or any other traditional Asian clothing to celebrate, it’s best to ask your partner how they feel about it before doing so.
“If it’s appropriate, ask them for help in finding the right dress,” Liliana Rasmussen, a half-Chinese friend, tells me. “And remember, it’s always better to ask than assume.”
Wearing traditional clothes without asking your partner can be a big turn off. They may not have any connection to this part of their culture themselves, so it could end up making them feel fetishized or alienated.
Give them a red envelope (with literally anything inside)
No Lunar New Year would be complete if I didn’t receive a red envelope. Usually, the extended family would give us red bags full of money. I know what you’re thinking: in this economy?
Times are tough and inflation has reached doomsday proportions, so if you can’t afford to cash out the Benjamins, you’re better off putting something else into it like a gift card, plane ticket or a concert, or something they can use. and that feels intentional. It’s the act of handing him a red bag and opening it that feels special, more than the cash itself. You can buy the red bags in the nearest Chinatown if you live in a big city or activated Amazon.
Thoroughly clean your home
This is self-explanatory on a given day, but this suggestion, courtesy of my friend Amy Zheng, who runs an Asian and Pacific Islander collective called Bayesians — is especially important during the Lunar New Year. This is because you are supposed to have a clean house to rid your space of bad luck.
Don’t miss anything
Of course, you’ve done some well-intentioned research on the interwebs about the Lunar New Year and want to flex all that knowledge on your boo. I’ll give you a pat on the back right now, virtually. But the worst thing you can do is tell them that the way they celebrate is “wrong” or doesn’t fit the more traditional way of doing things.
“As people of the Asian diaspora, many of us experience disconnection from our ancestral cultures and traditions. So you might be aware that for your partner, participating ‘correctly’ or ‘incorrectly’ in traditions can be a touchy subject, as for many of us, our knowledge or language ability is limited,” Vincent Chong, a friend from New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood, tells me, “Especially as a queer and trans diaspora and mixed people, tradition doesn’t leave much room for us. So we have to be actively building a new culture where we exist. There really isn’t a road map.”
Christopher Chin, who lives in New York, feels the same way about how some of us might feel away from the holidays. “Not everyone who celebrates LNY here in the US is privileged to understand or be connected to the cultural significance of many of the traditions,” Chin tells me. “One tip is to remember to center your partner and be aware that there may be different ways people feel about celebrating.”
This advice is pretty consistent across the board. Feeling that your partner is genuinely curious about you and your personal traditions makes you feel good, according to my mom.
Again, keep in mind that the Asian diaspora is huge and extremely complex, and each household has its own way of doing things. Sometimes we make things up, and that’s okay. Don’t question the validity of your partner’s way of celebrating because it’s authentic because it’s theirs.
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