It’s the most wonderful day of the year: Lunar New Year. Although I’m not Asian and don’t follow a lunar calendar, I can’t help but get excited about this holiday because it involves so many of my favorite things. It’s not just the dragons and fireworks and lucky red and gold everything. (Some people walk around with a theme song in their head; since working at Martha Stewart Weddings, I roam with a palette in mine, and my signature colors will be that auspicious combo for the foreseeable future.)
I also appreciate Lunar New Year’s focus on luck, inviting it, sharing it, and spreading it to others. Aside from embracing the propitious palette, you can eat fortunate foods such as dumplings (which are said to resemble lumps of gold), noodles (which invite long life with their shape), or a whole fish (because the word for fish sounds like the one for abundance). People exchange lucky gifts, with adults giving children cash in red-and-gold envelopes, and sending each other citrus fruit such as pomelos and mandarin oranges, which are traditional temple offerings because the round shape and golden color symbolize abundance; or sugared fruits to invite a sweet life. Gift-giving is always fun and thoughtful, but there’s something especially meaningful about the idea of wishing someone good fortune with a present. (Come to think of it, a red and gold copy of Lucky in Love, full of auspicious hacks, would be a great Chinese New Year gift, especially for an engaged couple, if I do say so myself.)
But the real reason I love Lunar New Year is because it’s a do-over. And by late Jan or early Feb, I usually need one, having broken most New Year’s resolutions and still reeling from the holidays, the colds and flus felling my family members one by one, and your basic winter doldrums. (Truth: I’ve been working on a Harry Potter puzzle I bought my kids for Christmas since then, and still haven’t finished–and that’s just the most tangible of my goals.) I spent Jan 1 in the ER with three-year-old Nico, who had an ear infection. We’ve all been sick. My mom broke her nose. I got trapped inside my winter coat during the Polar Vortex of 2019 (true story). There’s drama all around, and life is full of reminders that most of what happens is well beyond my control.
Which is why I’m so grateful for every folkloric ritual that allows me to invite good luck into my life, and makes me feel like I’m doing all I can to help my family, and by extension, the world at large, feel a little safer, kinder, and more fun. In 2019, I’ve consumed a total of 5 magic cakes. Those included three vassilopites, the Greek cake for New Year’s Day which contains a coin inside hidden for good luck; I ate the first the day after Christmas the last in late Jan when Amalia found the coin in her piece at Greek school. There were also two galette des rois, the French King Cake served at epiphany, with a magic charm inside. I didn’t get the charm this year (just the calories), but I felt lucky every time, sharing a sweet moment with people I love.
And now, I get to reboot. I will finish the Harry Potter puzzle—and, you know, everything else I vow to do to be a better mother, writer, friend, wife, person. How could I not? I’m wearing red and gold earrings. I just ate a satsuma. And I will keep looking for luck wherever I can find it, in dragons, fireworks, fruit, and everywhere else a hopeful new beginning can be found—and wishing you all the luck in the world.