[Second GenerAsian Theme - Tenny Tsang]
Sophia: Gong hei fat choy and sun leen fai lok!
Hannah: Sae hae bok mani badeu say yo!
David: Manigong Bagong Taon!
Sophia: Hi, I'm Sophia.
Hannah: I'm Hannah.
David: And I'm David.
Sophia: And welcome to another episode of...
All: Second GenerAsian!
Hannah: Today's snack of the day is Yakult. Yummy yummy Yakult. Or as we say in Korea, 야쿠르트. Favorite yogurt drink of many Asians.
David: Alright, our guest today is Tenny Tsang, at North by Northwestern's audio editor, from China.
Tenny: Hey guys, I'm Tenny. Thank you so much for inviting me onto Second GenerAsian.
Sophia: Thanks so much for helping us produce it.
Hannah: Yeah. For those of you who don't know, Tenny was the one who made our introduction music, so he's great, very skilled.
Tenny: Not so much.
David: So as you probably know, Lunar New Year is coming up soon.
Hannah: We'd like to start with a PSA that it is Lunar New Year, not Chinese New Year. Because Lunar New Year is celebrated by many other Asian countries that are not China. We all have our different traditions because we all use the lunar calendar sometimes. So it's Lunar New Year, not Chinese New Year because we are not here for this Asian erasure. Please, thank you, goodbye.
David: So actually, in the Philippines, Lunar New Year isn't really celebrated, you know, culturally. But there is a pretty high Chinese population there, so they do have celebrations. There's nothing really specific in the Filipino culture about Lunar New Year, and I think that has a lot to do with the way colonialism by the Spaniards and Americans kind of impacted our culture, but that's for another episode.
Hannah: So in Korea, Lunar New Year is called 설날 seollal, and the biggest thing that everyone does is make this thing called 떡국(ddeokguk), which is just like rice cake soup. It's really yummy. You take beef bones and boil them for the entire week to make this really nice base, then you put rice cakes in it, dumplings in it, and it's so, so good. People in Korea take seollal to visit their families because Koreans are really busy, and we don't see each other's families too often, so 설날 is one of the few days in the year where we can do that. We go see each other's families, we make 떡국, and then we play folk games, and in general, we like to pretend we're back in 13th century Korea. in if you're super traditional, you spend the first day of seollal, so seollal is three days, so you spend the first morning visiting your ancestral burial sites and praying to your ancestors for a good, prosperous new year. Although if you're Christian like a lot of other, like my family, and like a lot of other Koreans, you don't do ancestor worship anymore. But if you're a little less traditional, but still traditional, you do this thing called 세배 (saebae) where you bow to the elder members of your family and they give you money! So you bow and say 세해 복 많이 받으세요, which is how we say happy new year, it's like "may you have a lot of good fortune in the New Year." And personally, because it was just me and my family in America, we would just make rice cake soup during the Gregorian New Year, and just call it a day. Unlike China, which is an excessively long, two-week celebration. In Korea, it's just three days like I mentioned before.
Sophia: As Hannah just said, in China, Lunar New Year is a really big deal. It's two weeks, so my parents in Hong Kong, I'm pretty sure they got like two weeks, or one week off or something. And you know, since Hong Kong was controlled by the British, they also got the Gregorian New Year holiday, so basically, they just didn't go to school for a month, I think, which is good times.
Hannah: Good times.
Sophia: So a big tradition with Chinese New Year, or Chinese Lunar New Year, we give each other red envelope full of money, so those are called hong bao. So sometimes, if you're more traditional you do the bowing thing like in Korea. I don't. And also, my family doesn't actually celebrate for two years. I feel like very few people in the U.S., if at all, do that. I'm sure Tenny can talk more about that since he's lived in China and the U.S. But my family usually just gets together with my extended family since my grandma lives in the U.S. and also some family friends, and we just really have a big meal, and it's a lot of fun. So now, we'll have Tenny talk about his experience, but first, can you tell us a little about your background in China and in the U.S.?
Tenny: Yeah, sure. So I have lived in both in China and the U.S. as Sophia mentioned. I grew up in Shanghai, which is a coastal city in China, for 12 years. During my time over there, I have gone into, I guess, greater depth with how the Chinese in China celebrate Chinese or Lunar New Year. As Sophia mentioned, usually we just gather with our extended families or our relatives and have a big meal together the day before, you know, the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar. One of the dishes we usually eat together is the long noodle, which symbolizes...
Hannah: Long life, right?
Tenny: Yeah, long life, basically. Because the length of the noodles sort of symbolizes your life span, and the longer it is, it's just greater fortune for you as a person. We also have these red pockets, called hong bao right, in Cantonese? In Mandarin, it's hong bao, which is really similar.
Hannah: Is that not the same word?
Sophia: The tones are different.
Tenny: The tones are different, yes.
Hannah: Wait, wait say it again?
Sophia: Hong bao
Tenny: Hong bao
Hannah: Wait, it's...
Sophia: My Cantonese is pretty bad, so
Hannah: It sounds the same to me. Anyway...
Sophia: Not going to say my tones are exactly correct.
Tenny: But anyways, kids will usually try to appeal or try to favor their parents or their elderly members of the family to get red pocket money, similar to the Korean tradition as Hannah mentioned, so you can see a lot of parallels between Chinese and Korean traditions in celebrating Lunar New Year.
Hannah: Are you guys also not allowed to cut noodles? Because you're shortening the life?
Tenny: That I'm not sure, but...
Hannah: Oh, okay.
Tenny: But if you accidentally cut the noodle with your chopsticks, I think it's fine, you know?
David: So can you compare the Lunar New Year celebrations in China to the celebrations here?
Tenny: Sure, according to what I've been through, my perspectives, there isn't actually too much difference between Chinese in China versus Chinese-Americans in the U.S. As Sophia mentioned, in the U.S., families still gather and have this big meal together. Perhaps the subtle difference lies in the fact that the food in the U.S. might not be as authentic as in China. You know, with Panda Express, with those very Americanized Chinese food. It could be not as authentic, but nevertheless, the traditions are more or less the same.
Hannah: Not to hate on Panda Express, as food goes, it's good food. I think we can all agree. It tastes good, but is it Chinese?
Sophia: I actually haven't been to Panda Express before.
Hannah: Oh, wow.
Hannah: Tenny, what do you think?
Tenny: I actually like Panda Express.
Hannah: Yeah, it's good, but is it actually Chinese?
Tenny: It's a different interpretation.
David: So I know living in the U.S., you probably have a lot of friends who are Chinese but only grew up in the U.S., so how would you say the way they experience Lunar New Year and other traditional festivals, do you think that's any different?
Tenny: Yeah, so my dad's side of the family, I have two cousins who grew up solely in the U.S., and they do know how to speak Cantonese, it's just that their perspective of celebrating Lunar New Year might be quite different from me since I've spent my life in both parts of the world. So for them, I think they would just see it as a family gathering, a precious time to spend with family members while for me, even though family is one of the most important aspects of celebrating Lunar New Year, it's also sort of an opportunity to really remind myself of my identity as a Chinese, but also someone who spent time in the U.S., this cross-cultural identity and perspective.
Hannah: If you ever want to see actual Asian people celebrating actual Asian New Year, in Chicago, I know next to Argyle station, there is going to be a Lunar New Year parade. It's like one of those Chinese parades, with the lion dance and the dragon dances.
Sophia: Yeah, they're going to have lion dances, that will be really fun.
Hannah: Oooh, I love lion dancing, yeah.
David: On Saturday, February 16, the Chinese Student Association and the Taiwanese American Students Club will be hosting the Celebrasia, their Lunar New Year festivals where they'll have performances from a bunch of Asian performers, and it'll be a really good time. Tickets are $5 at the Northwestern Box Office online, and $7 at the door.
Hannah: And David, where is this celebration?
David: Celebrasia will be at the Cahn auditorium at 7 pm. We definitely recommend going to cultural shows like this, and even other shows put on around Chicago or around campus because I think going to shows and just seeing people embrace their culture like that is just really a cool experience. Because you don't see how much tradition, and I think even the people performing sometimes, in your daily life here in the States, there's just so much tradition you kind of forget about, but I think having events like this is a really good opportunity to do something really creative with it, and I think that's really awesome.
Hannah: I feel like we can't talk about Lunar New Year without talking about the zodiac and the legend behind the zodiac.
David: Oh, yeah.
Hannah: And the significance behind all the different animals.
Sophia: I'm a dragon, they're special.
Hannah: I'm a rabbit.
Hannah: Tenny, what are you? You're also a rabbit? Yeah. So unlike Western zodiac, Asian zodiac is by year. There's 12 animals, so it cycles every 12 years. So we're about to go full cycle again, right?
Hannah: Because we're at dog.
Tenny: We're at pig, right?
Hannah: Oh yeah, we're at pig. Oh no, we're at dog right now.
David: We're currently at dog.
Hannah: We're going into pig.
Tenny: Yes, yes.
Hannah: And we'll go back to rat.
David: I think the folklore behind that is pretty interesting. I'm not terribly well-versed in, but just based off my exposure from Chinese class, it was a race --
Hannah: Oh yeah.
David: behind all these animals.
Hannah: Some important god was like "Hello, every single animal. I'm going to have a race." So it's like you have to go across a river. And who could cross the river fastest was the winner, so there's this whole story of all these animals start and the rat is like "Ah, I can't swim, but I'm really smart, so I'm going to ask the cow for help." So the cow is like, "Oh sure you can get on my back." So the cow and the rat are going and doing their thing, and they reach the other side, and the rat hops off immediately and is like "Haha, sucker." So that's why rat is first and cow is second. Yeah.
David: Sounds right.
Hannah: All the other animals go on. You might be asking, "Wow, so many animals. Where's the cat?" That's because according to the legend, the cat was 13th place, and the important guy who was hosting the race was like "Ah, sorry, we don't have room for 13 animals, so you don't get a year."
David: So we're going to wrap it up. I hope you enjoyed this episode about the Lunar New Year...
Sophia: Go find a way to celebrate, too!
Hannah: Eat some good food, spend time with your family.
David: I'm David.
Hannah: I'm Hannah.
Sophia: And I'm Sophia.
Hannah: And we're signing out!
David: Our theme music was composed by Tenny Tsang. This is NBN Audio.