Last Friday I shared a table with a group of people from around the world. We told stories about each other’s cultures over warm plates of dumplings in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year. For the American, French, and Thai attendees, it was a first in terms of dumpling making. Normally when we cook dumplings there’s a certain method to be followed, but this year’s chefs decided to create their own spin on folding. It made us laugh so hard seeing their creative ideas for shaping the dumplings and I was amazed at everyone’s interest in Chinese culture.
The American girl asked me and my friend, “why do you eat dumplings on Chinese New Year?” It got me thinking, I would say for celebration, but what is the meaning behind it? Although I was raised in China, I just accepted my culture without understanding it deeply. I realized that I had been living within the culture but never knew the true meaning, so after the party I searched on Google to find the origin of Chinese dumplings, or “jiaozi”, which I soon found is based on several different folk stories. One of them is that jiaozi have shapes of gold ingots used as currency during the Ming Dynasty, and the name sounds like the word for the earliest paper money so they are said to bring wealth in the future. The Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate the present and the future. That night we celebrated the New Year, but also learned about each other’s cultures.
As we talked about our backgrounds, I recalled going to the Chinese New Year Gala with my Italian friend. We saw the lion dance and martial arts performances, and she was really impressed. We talked about the celebrations for holidays in China and Italy and taught each other some simple wishes in our own language. It was really hard to pronounce them, but we were curious and eager to learn.
This is what I love about America, diversity and inclusion. I like that I can make friends with people from all over the world here. I like showing my own culture and learning about others’ cultures. I enjoy going to cultural events like cultural festivals at Seattle City Center or cultural exchange events hosted by FIUTS at UW. I feel blessed to see that so many people here are so open-minded. The last thing I want to see is that people don’t feel safe or accepted in America. My wish this year for Chinese New Year is that we stay open to one another and hope for the best for everyone.