Payzant is obviously a foreign name, French to be exact. Our heritage also includes English, Irish, Sweedish, and Mexican with absolutely zero Asian blood of any kind. Then why, do you ask, has our family developed a February tradition around the Chinese New Year? The answer: because it is FUN. (And the food is pretty tasty too).
I have to admit that I did not know much about the whole Chinese New Year and
calendar thing until my oldest brought one home in the February of her first grade term. As a family, we identified and studied each of our designated Chinese characters on the calendar and realized that as strange as it might seem, our personalities pretty much matched our individual Chinese New Year symbols. In fact, these symbols were even a better personality match than our Zodiac Sign counterparts.
Another cool thing we realized was that two of us shared the same symbol because instead of being based on your birth month, Chinese New Year symbols are based on your birth year. We have two rats (I am one of them and I prefer to say “mice” instead of rats; mice are so much cuter), a dog, a dragon, and a horse. And now through marriage and babies, we have added another dog and two tigers to the mix so far. For added fun, when a particular symbol comes up that year representing one of our family members, we’ll treat the occasion as that person’s second birthday and they get a special honorary recognition.
How do we non-Asian folk celebrate this delightfully cultural celebration? With food, of course. I’ve obtained recipes through the years to make authentic lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, wontons, white jasmine rice, and for dessert, I’ll pick up some fortune cookies and dip them in chocolate. This ordeal uses up all of my pots and pans, takes several hours to prepare, and, my kitchen looks like a total disaster area when I am through. But I will sacrifice when it means a great family memory.
This is a “floating” holiday meaning, it doesn’t fall on the same day each year due to the moon or something. That allows for flexibility of when to observe it. When it fell during the first week or towards the end of the month, we would try to celebrate it as close as possible to the actual day to make it more traditional. But when it falls closer to Valentines Day, we opt to enjoy this tradition sometime during the last week of the month. We have for two reasons for this. One, so we can spend unhurried time on this celebration and, two, to send February out with a Chinese firecracker-like bang.
This year was our first empty nester Chinese New Year. We opted for Chinese take-out instead.