Red Envelopes

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

When I was young, Chinese New Year was “the big deal.” First thing in the morning, shiny red envelopes would pass into my hands. My mother would spend days cleaning and decorating the house, making it perfect for good fortunes to arrive. In those years, when the issue of identity came up, I would respond without hesitation, “I’m ABC! American Born Chinese!” Now, red envelopes are one of the only remaining aspects of the Chinese culture that my family retains. Chinese New Year comes each year with less cleaning, fewer decorations, no more family visits. The usual routines go on all day, and the only time we come together to recognize the new year is at dinner. We continue to celebrate it, but it has become just another holiday – equal in significance to birthdays and Christmas. Though I speak Mandarin at home, eat Chinese food regularly, and have visited China three times, I feel no connection to the country or culture it represents. After 7 years of Chinese school, I've almost completely forgotten how to read and write Chinese, and my speaking skills are slowly disappearing as well. In addition, my favorite Chinese food isn't really Chinese - it's General Tao's chicken. My parents have also become "Americanized" and not only accept intermarriage and homosexuality, but also value individualism and freedom over piety. Legally, they aren't even Chinese citizens anymore. Though there will always be snip-bits of Chinese culture in my life, I now identify solely as American.

Year: 1984

– Katherine Jin

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant