Monday, February 11, 2013

Lunar Eclipsed

           A typical New England nor'easter: 2+ feet of snow dumped on us last Friday night through Saturday. The build-up: everyone was a-buzz since Wednesday about the storm of the century.  Long lines at the checkout aisle for the impending snowpocalypse—carts with milk, bread, and A LOT OF liquor…Schools closed on Friday, much of work canceled, T closed by mid-afternoon.  Unprecedented statewide travel ban for more than 24 hours. So much snow that when we opened the door Saturday morning, we were greeted with snow up to our thighs. Shovel ‘til you drop to unearth a sidewalk path, make an egress from the backdoor, and uncover our little snowball Toyota in front of the house. 
            The thing is, this was supposed to be a weekend of monumentous proportions for us, but for entirely different reasons.  The Lunar New Year (Têt) was yesterday, and Mardi Gras is tomorrow. In fact, today is Lundi Gras, kind of like Mardi Gras eve.  I remember growing up in New Orleans and loving the confluence of two of the most important holidays of the year for the Vietnamese and for New Orleanians. There was months of build-up to each holiday, and once in a while, they would fall during the same week—I remember once the two holidays even fell on the same day!  Childhood memories of my family preparing for a big party for Têt, with lots of traditional foods, flowers, firecrackers, and the ly xì (lucky money in red envelopes) for kids. We’d all clean up, full bellies, full pockets, with dreams of how to spend our lucky cash. Combine that with the revelry of Mardi Gras, filled with parades, costumes, weekly king cake at school…and don’t forget the "throws" from the parades: beads, cups, doubloons. For a kid, when both collided, it was more than a double happiness of holidays—truly magical.
            My husband experienced firsthand the craziness of Têt prep a few years ago. We went to Dorchester to pick up some essentials, and he was greeted by the mob scene in the parking lot.  “Holy Moly!” he exclaimed in disbelief as he navigated aggressive Boston-Asian driving as I sprinted inside, ready to brave the crowds, And recently we toured Mardi Gras World, where crews of artists work year-round to create those decadent parade floats. He totally got it: “Wow, you guys are serious about this stuff.” Yes, my dear, we are.  (And to demystify it further for the rest—consider this a PSA, no more faux pas please: yes, it IS also known as “Chinese New Year”—to the Chinese. For the rest of us non-Chinese types, you can wish us a Happy Lunar New Year. And don't tell me it's too confusing to keep track of when these holidays land every year. It's called google, folks.)           
            Here, far away in New England, we had planned something simple: dinner out this weekend to our neighborhood foodie delight, East by Northeast, and dim sum with the kids Sunday.  My husband was going to buy cherry blossoms to decorate the house for the New Year.  In the past, we’ve even invited dear friends to share king cake or for a real Têt meal. But even our simplest plans were thwarted by that darn Nemo. We braved the elements Saturday night to go out to dinner (at Puritain and co, kind of fitting given the classic New England weather), but I fell ill yesterday with the dude’s nasty cold (no wonder he’s been cranky all week—this is the pits!), so we ended up getting Chinese takeout instead and turning in early.
            Not the same.  As I nurse this cold and stare outside at the winter wonderland (the kids are out with our beloved nanny after many days of cabin fever), I muse about how we can better celebrate these important holidays next year. One day soon we’ll make it down to nola for Mardi Gras, and eventually to Vietnam for Têt. I want our kids to have just a little taste of that excitement I felt as a child, for them to appreciate what amazing holidays they are.  It’s a letdown, kind of like if that big holiday in your life--be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Diwali, or Ramadan--never quite came this year. 

 Well, there’s always next year.  Until then, Happy Lunar New Year and Happy Mardi Gras, y'all! 

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