The Struggle to Infuse Culture as a 2nd Generation Asian-American

GONG XI FA CAI!  (That’s Happy Chinese New Year! in Mandarin)

This past weekend, we celebrated Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, over a feast of authentic Chinese food.

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A whole roasted chicken – signifying prosperity.
Steamed Whole Fish – symbolizing abundance for the coming year.
Lion’s Head Meatballs – representing strength and power.
Braised Pork – just because it’s delicious!

She also got to reap the rewards of being part Chinese by the abundance of red envelopes she was given; each filled with its fair share of money.

As we gathered that night with family, celebrating an age-old Chinese tradition, I thought about how interesting it’ll be for Noelle to grow up with two different, unique cultures.  Although she is 100% Asian, she is only half Chinese and half Korean.  She’s already so distinct from me and S just from the pure fact that she is made up of two ethnicities.  That, in and of itself, is something we could never identify with.

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Korean Hanbok in the middle; Chinese Chipao on the Left and Right

From the food to the language to the holidays celebrated, we want to make a conscious effort to incorporate both these cultures into our lives.  It’s no easy task, considering we’re already a little removed from our origins simply because we were both born and raised in America.  We speak our respective languages, but not as well as we should.  We followed certain cultural rites because our parents told us to, but somewhere along the way, the significance of it all got lost.  We don’t know the why behind the do.  I’ve found this to be a common theme amongst my many second-generation Asian-American friends.

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Wearing a Chipao in honor of Chinese New Year.  Once she tried on the pink, she refused to take it off.  She even chose her own pink shoes to match!

We’re still figuring out how to marry our two cultures into her life as she grows, but one thing we did agree on is if she could only master one language other than English, we would want it to be Mandarin Chinese.  With this in mind, we’ve been looking into Chinese language immersion schools and finding ways to incorporate Mandarin into our everyday language (even though I’m the only one in this household that speaks it).  Other ways we want to celebrate our two cultures is by ensuring we upkeep the major holidays, and exposing her to different types of Chinese and Korean foods.

Do you think about how culture will play a role in your child’s life?  How do you plan to expose your children to your roots?

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