What to Cook This Weekend: On New Years Traditions Near and Far

By Dan Q. Dao

Published on February 11, 2017

It's lucky that New Year's Day is my favorite holiday of the year, because I get to celebrate it twice. Yes, that's right, I get two whole chances to turn over a new leaf, reset the meter, start from scratch. I'm of course referring to January 1st—the champagne-swilling, midnight-kissing evening of revelry—and Lunar New Year, the week-long, family-focused affair celebrated in many Asian cultures in late January through early February.

While both holidays symbolize essentially the same naturally-occurring phenomenon, they couldn't be more, dare I say, night and day. Like many of you, I spend every New Year's Eve with sparkling cocktails and canapés in-hand, ruminating on my potential resolutions: to sleep more, to stop being late to everything, to maybe cut sugar out of my diet completely. New Year's, in America, is about celebrating your successes in the outgoing year and achieving your full potential in the year to come.

On the flipside, the week of Lunar New Year is about family. Sometimes, that means traveling back home to eat a giant feast together under one roof, or in my case, incessant texts from mom reminding me to call my grandparents and aunties. It also means wishing each of your family members a variety of "blessings," ranging from health to prosperity to a new lover, and receiving in return, red envelopes filled with good-luck money.

Of course this is not to say that there aren't families that ring in a new year together on January 1st, or that Lunar New Year isn't also about personal growth, but there's a poetic balance in how the distinctions of each tradition complement the other's. This year, when I follow through on my resolution to cook more, I'll try my hand at making dumplings from-scratch, fulfilling my mom's wish that I save more money. If I resolve to sleep more, I'll also achieve my grandma's blessing of good health.

It’s a nice checks-and-balances system for personal improvement and not-shaming your family that I can get behind.

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