Every Chinese New Year, my large family of fourteen drives down to Chinatown to go to a Buddhist temple on Madison Street. Inside are 3 large shrines and a basement where only vegetarian food is served. The place buzzes of people of all ages speaking different dialects of Chinese. Everyone in the temple is an immigrant--you'll barely hear an ounce of English. Every year I like to go the first shrine and get a fortune lot, which is a piece of paper that tells you how your year will be. First you take a jar of sticks that are each labeled with a number from 1-100 and shake it while thinking of a question. Only one stick is allowed to drop out so you have to be careful. Once one stick drops, you take these two moon shaped blocks (as shown in the picture), jiggle it, and let them fall to the floor. When two sides are facing the same way, it represents "no," and when they are on opposite sides it means "yes." This is how you know whether or not the stick that fell out is for you. If the answer is no, you restart. If the answer is yes, you can grab your lot. This paper and all the rules that come with it always reminds me of my culture and religion. My Buddhist background is what I've come to associate with being "Asian," and no matter how much I accept American culture, these traditions will always be a part of me. They have been annual constants in my life and even though I was born in America, these rituals remind me of where I come from and what my roots are.
– Melanie Chow