90.1 FM San Luis Obispo | 91.7 FM Paso Robles | 91.1 FM Cayucos | 95.1 FM Lompoc | 90.9 FM Avila
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

When you're away from home during Lunar New Year, broaden the definition of family



What you're hearing is traditional Chinese music that's often played during the Lunar New Year, which is this weekend.


In China, that means fireworks and dancing and gifts of red envelopes. You give people red envelopes filled with money, especially kids. And there's also a lot of cooking.

MARTÍNEZ: Whatever time of the day, there will also be plenty of food on the table so that everyone who would go there would have to eat something.

INSKEEP: King-Kok Cheung is a professor of Asian American studies at UCLA, and she shared with us some of the ways that she celebrates.

MARTÍNEZ: For Cheung and many others, the heart of the holiday is simple.

KING-KOK CHEUNG: Family, because that's the time when you have to go home.

INSKEEP: Regular life in China comes to a halt. Schools and businesses close. Hundreds of millions of people who moved to cities for work travel home to their villages to visit family.

MARTÍNEZ: Since Cheung lives far away from relatives, she's broadened her definition of family.

CHEUNG: I do have folks that I feel as close as family all over the world, whether we're talking about Egypt or Europe or, you know, Southeast Asia and so forth.

INSKEEP: There's even a place in her home for people she never met.

CHEUNG: I'm so-and-so's cousin, whatever. Can I come stay with you for a few days? I'm passing through Los Angeles. I would say, oh, no problem.

MARTÍNEZ: The recent lifting of COVID restrictions in China means many people are finally able to see family in person again.

CHEUNG: Everyone is just so happy that they could finally go home.

INSKEEP: And for many, this new year may be emotional because of the loss of loved ones from COVID.

CHEUNG: It's almost not sensitive to just say Happy New Year, for instance. Instead, I use the other common saying, (non-English language spoken), meaning that may your whole family be healthy and peaceful.

MARTÍNEZ: But Lunar New Year also marks a new beginning.

CHEUNG: We are all hoping that the new year would chase away all the bad things.

INSKEEP: So here's to a happy, prosperous and healthy Year of the Rabbit.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE HAGGIS HORNS' "HAGGIS EXPRESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.