Growing up in Singapore, celebrating Chinese New Year was a very big deal. As children, we get several days off from school, and we would come together as a family in my aunt's gigantic home and just eat and play. It's my favorite holiday because I used to love going to my aunt's house and playing hide-and-seek with my cousins. We would watch TV in her bedroom while the adults ate and chatted in the living room area. They more or less left us alone, except when they gave us red packets with money in them. I just remember having so much fun every year with my cousins, though if I have to think of specific details and describe them, they don't sound as fun as I feel like they were.
As my mother is the youngest to 6 older sisters and 2 brothers in her family, I had a ton of cousins to play with growing up. People are always surprised by how well-adjusted I am for someone who is a single child (which is not a dig to people who grew up without siblings. It was their observation, not mine.) I didn't really feel like a single child growing up. I am closest to my cousins who are in the same age range, and the older ones I regard the way I would an aunt or uncle. If it helps to picture just how large my mother's family is, my oldest cousin is 4 years younger than my mom, and his oldest son is a year younger than me. He and his younger brothers grew up calling me "Auntie" which is always bizarre for a 6-year-old to hear.
Anyway, yesterday was the first day of Chinese New Year, and I did not do anything to celebrate it except order shitty takeout Chinese food. It's times like this that I miss my cousins desperately and I wish I could go back to Singapore to visit. I know, however, that even if I were to return during the holiday, it would not be the same as before. Because I am now so much older, the adults (I will forever refer to my aunts and uncles as "the adults" even though I am technically an adult) now try to talk to me and ask me questions about my life here. And since I am not an immature 10-year-old, I can't really get away with ignoring my elders and running off to play with my cousins.
It may sound like I am complaining about having to talk to my aunts and uncles when they show interest in my life. The truth is that despite my age, I still get nervous about talking to them about my life and my choices. I don't feel comfortable with my aunts and uncles because they have been such figures of authorities for me growing up - These are people who have reprimanded me, scolded me and humiliated me (in the way that a petty child may feel humiliated by an adult reprimanding her, not in the David-Sedaris-scarring way) They have also taken care of me in some way or other, and therefore, there is some residual fear of them (fear in the "oh no, I am in trouble for playing in the rain!" way, not fear in the David-Sedaris-scarring way.)
Yesterday, I kept telling myself that I should do something special for Chinese New Year, like go down to Chinatown and watch the lion dance. But I know that I can eat all the fantastic Chinese food and watch all the parades, and I will still feel like I'm not really celebrating it. I haven't celebrated Chinese New Year for almost ten years and I just miss it so much. It used to be my favorite holiday and now it's been reduced to watching the All-Star game on TV while eating crap Chinese food with my boyfriend (In case he ever reads this, I should probably add that he's wonderful company. He's just not my cousins and watching the All-Star game is not celebrating in Singapore.)