Deep down inside, I’m really kind of cheena. Really deep down inside. You have to dig real hard but underneath all those layers of self-professed UN-chineseness, I can’t get away from the fact that my chinese roots are deeper than I thought.
Ok, so writing Chinese characters are the bane of my existence, and my spoken Mandarin is possibly worse than Jackie Chan’s. My Chinese teacher used to get a kick out of making me read passages aloud because it’s monumentally embarrassing for me. Those kungfu Chinese words all look the same to me and I mostly make up words as I go along.
That’s until I traded my friend 2 essays to write down exactly how it sounds like in English at the bottom. Right back at you, liu lao shi.
But that’s not really the point. The one true test of a person’s degree of chineseness only comes around once a year during the Lunar New Year. It’s the BIGGEST affair for every Chinese person, even if you’re living in the hills of Afghanistan. It’s the time of the year where you get away with wearing pigtails and silk costumes. You put on ching-chong-chang music, grab two oranges and go around collecting ang pows.
Just like Halloween, except all the costumes look the same and instead of candy, you get real money. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better. Until you’re married and have to start giving corpulent brats dollar bills just because they shoved 2 oranges in your face. That kind of sucks.
And much as you hate to, you have to resist the temptation of giving them monopoly money because you know that the moment they grab it, they’re going to run to the toilet to check it and you’ll be busted.
Right, so the music. For those in the know, it’s called dong-dong-dong-chiang. Because that’s exactly what it sound like. Basically, that’s the whole song. For like 15,000 times. It sounds like the kind of song cool people love to hate.
But here’s the thing. It’s my ultimate guilty pleasure. I’ll never admit to this but since I can be honest on the Internet, I think it’s time to come out of the closet. It’s a big moment for me so maybe we should all observe a moment of silence.
I actually know ALL the lyrics to most of the new year songs and when no one is looking, I sing them with gusto. It’s strangely liberating. There’s all that deafening clanging so you can sing aloud like one big karaoke party.
It all started when I was 13. I went to a Chinese school (shocking, I know) and every year, we do a massive singalong party where we get to ditch the uniforms and rock out to Chinese New Year songs. Being all angsty, I pretended to mumble through the entire set list looking downright sullen but deep down inside, I was rockin it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.
Tomorrow it’s the Lunar New Year yet again. I get to dress up my kids real cute and bring them around to as child labor. It’s going to be so fun.