Things you should know for a Lunar New Year party in America.
Dear Clueless American,
I assume since you are reading this letter that you are going to be attending a Lunar New Year celebration, and that you are currently clueless and have no idea what to expect. Don’t worry, I also was once in the same position except I attended clueless and had to learn as I went. You, on the other hand, should not need to worry. I have made all the mistakes and taken all the unsure steps so you don’t have to. I experienced a Vietnamese New Year party, so there might be a few things that are different, but these basic tips should help you make the most you possibly can of your experience.
First off, don’t show up late. This sounds obvious, but seriously don’t. It doesn’t matter what you were doing that day, if you show up late you will probably miss out on some very cool shows like the Lion Dance, something I had never seen before, and still have never seen. They tend to start the night off with a bang, so it’s best to not miss it. If you have to be late, just hope that some people there are willing to record it for you while drive 5 miles over the speed limit to make up for your tardiness. Even if you are late, you shouldn’t worry too much because there is likely still a long night ahead. Just fix your outfit and walk in confidently. Speaking of your outfit…
Dress up nice. I don’t mean a v-neck with jeans, I mean you should probably wear a dress or skirt as a female and a button up with slacks for guys. It’s generally a much nicer event than we make our New Year parties. The one I attended was Vietnamese, so many of the people in attendance were wearing traditional clothing. I was not warned of this, so I was very underdressed in my jeans and t-shirt. I don’t think anyone judged me, but I think I would have been able to relax a little more if I had dressed classier.
Expect to clap and cheer a lot. With large Lunar New Year parties there will be a number of performances and there may even be a few by the people you know. They might not be top quality, super stellar performances, but they will very enjoyable. After each one you are going to want to cheer and clap loudly. Unless they ask you not to, give into temptation and cheer your heart out. This is even encouraged for shy people because it will raise your adrenaline and make the night more fun. But you will be filled up with more than just entertainment…
Prepare to eat a lot of food. There will be tables upon tables of cultural food with many ingredients that you may have never tried before. It is all delicious so gluttony will soon take over and you will become full quickly. To postpone the inevitable, just be as hungry as possible going in so you don’t pass up the chance to try all this amazing food. Which brings me to my next point…
Try all the food. Don’t be scared just because the cake looks green or the rice is bright orange. Those might actually end up being your favorite foods for the night (the green cake is sticky rice cake, and it is delicious). Some of the foods might even have names or ingredients that you can’t pronounce. How’s that for something new. They might have chicken strips and fries as part of the food option, but you are there to have new experiences, which includes food! Most importantly, try the spring rolls and the brown sauce that should be next to them. It’s called peanut sauce and it’s the most heavenly thing you will ever try (unless you are allergic to peanuts, in which case it might send you to heaven).
You will not know some of the songs. Unless you listen to their music all the time, chances are they will play a song where everyone seems to be singing along except you. Don’t worry when this happens. No one is judging you for now knowing the song, and it might be more offensive if you try to sing along badly. Unless someone tells you you should sing along, it is perfectly fine to simply smile while everyone else is singing. Don’t let this potentially uncomfortable moment ruin your night. It’s just another chance for you to have a cultural experience. And maybe you will find some really interesting, new music.
Hopefully all these tips are helpful to you as you approach your Lunar New Year celebration. It’s also possible that these won’t help at all. I am afterall still an American. In the end just remember to have fun and enjoy the night with your friends!
Fellow Clueless American