Four extravagant feasts later, our Chinese New Year celebration drew to an end. My stomach is still processing all the delicious tomato fried egg, roasted pork belly, pineapple shrimp rolls, and more delicious goodness. My heart is also still recovering from losing big in the annual family gambling ritual.
This was my first Taiwanese family reunion in nine years. Being away for that long, I found myself unsure of what the traditions entail, and whether I’d stick out like a sore thumb.
But the family reunions have not changed in the years I was gone. It is still fancy and rare home-cooked food, handing the young ones money, sitting around and gossiping. The only change was the addition of smartphones and the removal of cable TV.
In between these feasts, we would sit in the front foyer of the old home I grew up in, chatting about nonsense while some chewed on sunflower seeds and others played Candy Crush on all phones available.
As food got ready, the family returned to its usual eating ritual before everyone takes their first bite. My grandfather, who is now wheelchair-bound, receives a standing ovation every time he enters the feast fashionably late. And the same goes with with my grandmother, who is in pretty good health other than one blind eye and a newly hired Indonesian caregiver following her every move. Every one of their now-adult children rush to their every need, arguing about what is best for their parents, as if it’s a competition amongst themselves. My own family is a fine example of filial piety at its finest.
After the eldest begins eating, the rest of us stuff ourselves with delicious food, chewing with our mouth open and clanking away on our bowls and chopsticks. Then we criticize and compare all the dishes, but still devour every single speck. I suppose we’re no Downton Abbey, but we get the job done.
I think for a long time I questioned my family’s form of affection. Perhaps due to my western influence, I used to expect families to be very affectionate, always hugging and complimenting each other. But I realize as an adult that those dinner scenes on ABC Family movies are exactly what they are – fiction. Real families like ours insult, argue, compete and make fun of each other, only to rejoice during dinner and enjoy a grand meal together. They also still make you feel right at home despite being away for almost a decade.
I am very happy to be blessed with my cross-continental family, despite their continuous arguments, problems, and drama. Although my family in the United States have never even met their relatives in Taiwan, I actually quite enjoy bridging the gap between them, sharing with them the way of life across the pacific.