The dragon is the only mythical animal included in the Chinese zodiac and it brings with it a special kind of good fortune. More babies will be born and more businesses will be started this year than in any other. It is the luckiest year of all twelve that make up the Chinese zodiac.
In fact, hospitals in Asia and especially China brace for population booms in dragon years. Some maternity hospitals are already booked until August and nannies in cities like Beijing have increased their rates. In previous dragon years, even places like Singapore have noted birth rate spikes of 10 percent, even if they see declining birth rates in years between dragon years. In China, birth rates increased 5 percent.
“This year is especially important because it aligns with the water element, representing intelligence and wisdom,” says Alan Wong, general manager of Kung Fu Plaza Restaurant in Las Vegas. “Much like the Year of the Dragon is meant to bring luck and wealth, feng shui associates water with luck and money.”
Wong also says the New Year carries a special importance to the Chinese and other Asian families. Several days leading up to and during the 15-day festival carry a special importance for families, ancestors, and descendents.
He says married daughters often visit their parents on the second day, family dinners are held on the eighth day, and families walk the streets on the fifteenth day carrying lanterns as part of the annual Shangyuan Festival (Lantern Festival). In Malaysia and Singapore, the fifteenth day is also celebrated as a Valentine’s Day.
The Beginnings Of A New Legacy For The Wong Family.
Although the Wong family immigrated to the United States from Thailand in the 1970s, some of his ancestors were part of the Chinese Diaspora in the mid 1940s. As they married and identified with the Thai people, his family’s Chinese lineage was mostly disrupted. What wasn’t disrupted, however, was his ancestors’ anxiety of Chinese rule.
In the 1960s, Thailand was extremely concerned about Chinese expansion, enough so that the Kingdom of Thailand launched a campaign that contrasted communist China with the freedom, education, and religious beliefs associated with Thailand. When given the opportunity to move to the United States, Wong’s mother and father didn’t hesitate but maintained their connections in Thailand.
“My father still maintains our ties to Thailand, which is how he and my mother were able to import rare ingredients to the U. S. and start a Thai restaurant and Asian market in Las Vegas,” says Wong. “In terms of our heritage, especially through ancient recipes passed from one generation to the next, my family has preserved many traditions. However, in terms of preserving our family lineage, we have essentially started over.”
For future generations, Wong cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining family traditions. Beyond preserving the authentic flavors of Thai cuisine and some Chinese dishes at his family’s restaurant, he wants his children and future grandchildren to know how his parents risked everything to make a new life in the U. S. It’s often the people who cannot trace their ancestry that value it the most, he said.
Celebrating Legacy will help families avoid disruptions in the future by providing a secure and safe means of preserving that information in the form of individual memorials, family legacies, and family journals. The information won’t be mired down by information overload, but rather preserve what family members consider important.
Future generations might wish to know why their parents wanted them to be born during the Year of the Dragon. Or which traditions during the Chinese New Year their family practices and which are preserved. Or how and why their great-grandparents immigrated half a world away to the U.S. All of them are ingredients in preserving a vibrant family legacy.