"As people, we are more alike than we are different but our differences are beautiful too".
Most of the time, you don't have to look much further than your own "village" to connect with or learn about someone. So that is what I did by reaching out to Marie, someone who has been very helpful to me personally and professionally through the years. Although I have known her for a while, we never really discussed her culture as a Chinese-American and so I asked her some questions about her favorite traditions and here is what she said:
What is your name and location:
Marie Allegro and Whitestone, New York.
Where are your parents from? My parents were from Canton, China which is the southern East region of China (Guangzhou).
Do you identify as Chinese, American, or both? I identify more American because I was born here in the USA. But what is American? The USA is a mix of many cultures.
What’s your earliest memory of a Chinese tradition. As early as I can remember, my family was Taoist & Buddhist beliefs. We had a shrine at home with the Buddha and Chinese goddess Kuan Yin. There were many holidays when my parents prepared meals and prayed to our past ancestors with the burning of incense.
How has it changed over time?
The biggest change is when a close relative (mom/dad/grandparents) passed away, we were supposed to mourn for a month where we could not visit anyone, wear only black or white, wear a black armband, women to wear a blue or white flower. Now we wear it for a few days and burn them at the cemetery when we place our loved ones to rest. When my mom passed that is what we did.
What are your favorite Chinese traditions? I do believe in some of the Chinese traditions, like not mixing happy and sad events together. For example, I would not go to a funeral or to a cemetery on my birthday/anniversary. My favorite was always Chinese New Year as a child because I received red envelopes filled with money. I saved a lot as a kid. :-)
Any related to health and wellness?
During a few holidays, we went vegetarian for a few days. The only animal product was the dry oysters.
How do you feel about holidays and family relationships?
I love the Chinese holidays bc it deals with food and I love to eat! I was close with my Mom and I feel she taught me my foundation as a person, like helping others who need it. I am close to my Dad towards the end and my siblings and I are close. Since I got sick with COVID earlier this year, we have gotten closer and video-chat each other almost every day.
What is your favorite Chinese meal?
My mom was the best cook ever because she cooked with love. When I was on meal prep for a bodybuilding competition, she hated it to see me get so thin. But I always asked her to make me her two best dishes when done. Stewed tomatoes with beef and tofu with beef in oyster sauce. I would devour these two dishes and my mom would watch proudly.
Do you practice any particular Chinese traditions with your American family? Unfortunately, the only tradition I would practice is Chinese New Year where I gave out red envelopes to the kids. Since my moms passing, I lost a lot of my traditions.
What do you the world to know about being Chinese and what are you most proud of)?
Like many people that came from other countries to the USA, the old school Chinese people were extremely hard-working folks. They did everything for the family. My grandfather came to the USA by himself back in the 1960s. He left my grandma, dad, uncle, and aunt back in China to get a better life here in the USA. He worked many jobs and opened a few businesses. He even suffered a stroke at an early age in his 40s and was half-paralyzed but he managed to work, save money, and bought a 6-floor tenement in Little Italy. We lived pretty well because we did not have to pay rent for many years. I am living a blessed life because of my grandfather's sacrifice. My mom and dad worked their asses off too, but grandpa started the fire.
Thank you for reading this second installment giving a glimpse into the life of another person. At Culture x Co we believe that empathy helps to build strong bonds that counter the negativity of racism. If you would like to be featured or know somebody who would, please email us email@example.com