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  • Shelley Rottenberg

Lunar New Year



This Lunar New Year was very special because I celebrated it in a way that felt authentic to me. I attended some festivities with my family and learned about Chinese tea and calligraphy. I got bubble tea and made dumplings with my sister. I had my first real dim sum experience amongst fellow Asian adoptees in Chinatown. And I was interviewed by CBC Toronto about what the Lunar New Year means to me as an adoptee.


As a transracial Chinese adoptee, I’ve felt pressured in the past to learn more about my birth culture because I thought it was something I should do. I worried that I wasn’t Asian enough and felt guilty for not being what other people expected. I remember the times when another Asian assumed I spoke Mandarin and my apologies for not being able to understand felt like I was apologizing for who I was.


This mentality led me to believe that there was a ‘right’ way to be Asian. The fear of not already knowing the rules of the game and looking like an imposter sometimes was the thing that held me back from even trying to learn more about my culture. I’d tell myself it was too difficult, or that no matter how much I tried, I could never make up for not being raised in it.

But along my journey of self-acceptance, which involved me embracing my adoptee identity, I realized that the differences that made me stand out in one community would be the similarities that allowed me to find belongingness in another. I’m so grateful I connected with other adoptees as an adult because it’s been life-changing.


Now I’m trying to make sure that if and when I choose to engage in reconnecting with my birth culture, it comes from a place of genuine interest, curiosity, and excitement. And now I’m not alone in this process because I have the presence and support of others with shared lived experiences.


I might not know all of the history and customs of the Chinese or Asian holidays, but I’m learning as I go on my terms and am making my own traditions. 2023 was the first year I celebrated Lunar New Year with fellow adult adoptees, and it certainly won’t be my last.


Although I celebrated with other adoptees as a child, they were events coordinated by adoptive parents and eventually stopped as we all grew up. There were years when I wouldn’t even acknowledge Lunar New Year because it didn’t mean anything to me at the time. Helping create a space for Asian adoptees by hosting local meetups feels like I’ve come full circle.


Here’s to longevity, peace, and prosperity! The year of the rabbit is one of change and hope!


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