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  • Kate Forest

Happy New Year


I won’t belabor the point of the connection between the Jewish and Chinese people in America. Jews have coopted Chinese food as their cuisine. The general thinking is that it stems from Chinese restaurants being open on Christmas, but I think it’s mostly because it tastes better than most Eastern European dishes. What’s better: borscht or hot and sour soup? And Jews coopted Mah Jongg, changing the rules, adding wild jokers, and butchering the names of the suits. Much has been made of the similar immigration experiences, and there are scholars out there that have much more information than I do.

Not entirely sure, but I think these are Jewish women on a "beach" in the Catskills, dressed in "costumes," playing Mahj.

But for me, the connection has always been a New Year that’s not on Jan 1st. I once had someone ask me about Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and did that mean it was 2005 a few months earlier. I had to explain that Jews started counting before Jesus’s birth. (See my completely uneducated explanation about Rosh Hashanah).

Turns out Jews aren’t the only ones keeping their own calendar. The Chinese yearly calendar is cyclical and rolls through all 12 zodiac signs and there are three different years that could be considered the first, so no one really cares what the year number is. It’s all about the animal. This year is the Pig, the twelfth of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order of the years would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived to his party. Pig was late because he overslept. (I feel ya, Pig). Fireworks and dumplings seem to be in order. I’m all about dumplings.

I had a co-worker from Iran and she told me about Persian New Year or Nowruz, which comes on the Vernal Equinox, or the first of the month of Farvardin. It’s been celebrated for over 3,000 years so they’re not looking at 2019 either. This one makes the most sense to me because spring rebirth should be the start of a new year. People celebrate by visiting each other for short visits, the elderly visiting the young, etc. There’s a long list and you’ve got to get to everyone. This would never pass in a Jewish community. No one could coordinate this intricate visiting pattern, confusion would reign.

I’ll take a celebration in any way in any form. I’m never one to turn down a chance to eat and drink. Doesn’t much matter to me. It’s New Year’s somewhere.


© 2015 by KATE FOREST