Fact – 2023 will see the year of the rabbit. Fact - It’s a festival celebrated globally that follows the Chinese Lunar calendar by over 1.5 billion. But, for a long time I wasn’t one of them...
It's a holiday most people today have probably heard of and been exposed to in some way, but it's one that is deeply entrenched in lots of different stories and traditions passed down through generations of ancestors.
Now, these were passed down in stories growing up of legendary beasts terrorising villages or tales of a gable of animals racing to be honored by Chinese Zodiac each year. But that can feel miles away from a mixed-race little girl in Newcastle, who really just loved being swept up in the loud drums, red packets and Dragon dances that paraded down the street every year.
My experience growing up was very westernised and ‘Geordie’, I was the only non-white child in my school and was only surrounded by people who looked like me at family gatherings. For the first few years I never really saw myself as any different to my peers.
Now during the 90’s racism to the Asian community was rarely publicised, it’s only since the pandemic we’re seeing it take more space in the narrative around discrimination with campaigns like ‘Stop Asian Hate’.
Unfortunately, it was rife and prevalent; with rocks against my windows, slurs shouted on the street and incidents of physical violence even at primary school.
Now how does this link back to Chinese New Year you may ask, well one year when I’d been targeted by older boys my dad declared he’d had enough. He came in every year and educated the whole school about what it meant to our community and brought in lion dancers, everything.
I began to dread the holiday not grateful for the attention. To me, it further emphasised my ‘otherness’, a feeling and a distance that continued until I went to university.
Moving to Manchester was a revelation. The metropolitan melting pot of cultures and people allowed me to own my heritage and identity – even managing an Asian Restaurant, a true ‘Fuzion’ of east and west.
I’m so grateful for everything that the restaurant did for me and the woman they helped me become, showing me that it’s ok to be proud of every part that made you who you are.
Now, I can’t wait for the Chinese New Year.
I revel in all the traditions I used to shy away from, even ones like not washing my hair... But I see it as a time to get my friends together to feast, celebrate and reflect on all we’ve achieved in just roughly 354.37 days!