Chinese New Year-Open Letters with Jennie To

An Open Letter about Chinese New Year

As a BBC (British born Chinese) who was born in Croydon, you’d think that living in England my whole life I’d be accustomed to the Western lifestyle. Well, yes and no. At home, I was raised speaking mostly in Cantonese, with the expectation that I’d pick up English at school, which I did. My grandparents looked after my sister and I while my parents worked 6 days a week at our family takeaway business so, you can imagine how little time we spent together as a family.

Food is so ingrained and esteemed in Chinese culture, and even more so during CNY as it meant we could eat and spend more quality time together as a family on New Year’s Eve. Planning for CNY typically involves two main themes; clearing away the previous year’s bad luck by doing a deep clean of the house and preparing to receive next year’s good luck by hanging decorations and wearing new pyjamas. New Year’s Day was generally a quiet affair and I vividly remember my mum telling us off for washing our hair, as it meant we were washing away our luck. All these traditions have been passed on for generations and although my daughter is 20 months old and won’t necessarily understand the meaning behind CNY, I intend to pass it on!

This year, CNY lockdown celebrations will be an intimate affair but thanks to my childcare bubble, we’ll still be able to spend it with family. During CNY, Chinese people typically wish for good health, wealth and happiness and as we bid farewell to the Year of the Rat and welcome the Ox, this year, my only wish is for my nearest and dearest to be healthy and happy. What good is wealth without health, right?


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