Employee Spotlight: Celebrating Lunar New Year with Melissa Lam and Erica Ho
At Alloy, celebrating diversity is one of our core values. One way we do this is by learning about different traditions and cultures. Earlier this month, many of our employees celebrated Lunar New Year — a New Year festival based on the lunisolar calendar that is most celebrated in countries within East and Southeast Asia.
In honor of Lunar New Year, we chatted with Melissa Lam, a senior implementations associate at Alloy, and Erica Ho, a product manager at Alloy, to learn how they celebrated.
How was your Lunar New Year?
My New Year was great! I usually celebrate New Year’s Eve with my grandparents and my family. I always like to use Lunar New Year as a chance to reflect on the past year and set new goals for the upcoming year. I also get to visit both sets of my grandparents as they both luckily live in the New York area.
This year was really fun; I got to go to Taiwan to celebrate Lunar New Year with all of my family, which I have not been able to do for a while. In Taiwan, everyone gets about a week off to celebrate, and for this year, we got January 31st to February 7th off. The 31st is New Year’s Eve so we make sure everything is prepared for the following day.
What are your favorite family traditions?
My favorite family tradition is all the delicious food that I get to eat. Before COVID-19, I would go to a big banquet hall in flushing or Chinatown to eat and celebrate with my family. This year I was able to celebrate it at my grandparents’ house. Lunch is always a vegetarian meal, while dinner will be a meal with meat.
I have two favorite traditions. The first is going to the temple near my dad’s side of the family. When we go over there, we do bai bai (which is prayers to ancestral deities). After we finish going to the temple to pray, we play Mahjong (a four-player, tile-based game) and gamble with family. I’m not very good, and my family always ends up taking my money, but it's always fun to play with them anyways.
Did you get red envelopes, or did you give red envelopes this year?
My family follows the superstition that you do not give red envelopes until you get married, so I still receive envelopes. I have to savor these last few moments since I recently got engaged, so I will have to give them out after I get married.
I received red envelopes this year. My family says I don’t have to give any until marriage, but I usually give it to my parents and grandparents.
What are some of your favorite foods that you eat during Lunar New Year?
Each dish is supposed to represent a certain aspect of good luck or fortune for the year. My top favorites are definitely the lobster noodles for longevity, and then some Nian Gao (New Year Cake) for success, dumplings that signify wealth, and a whole fish for prosperity and chicken for family unity.
The act of getting together with the family is called “tuan yuan fan” (literally: reunion dinner). During this time, we all get together to eat. My favorite dishes are steamed fish, Nian Gao, steamed shrimp, and the buddha jumping over the wall, which got its name to entice vegetarian Buddhist monks to leave their temple and eat this dish. There can be many expensive ingredients that make up this dish, but our family made it with pork, abalone, and sea cucumber.
What superstitions do you or your family follow during the Lunar New Year?
My core superstition that I usually follow is to make sure we do not do any cleaning on Lunar New Year because you are sweeping away all of your good luck. Because of that, I usually deep clean my apartment the week before New Year's Day. I usually wear red for good luck, and I also avoid getting my hair cut on New Year's Day, so I do not cut away my good luck.
I always make sure to pray before New Year's Eve dinner and to lay out food for the ancestors and heavenly deities to “eat” first before the rest of us are allowed to touch the food.
What is your Chinese Zodiac?
My zodiac is the year of the water monkey.
My zodiac is the year of the water monkey too.
What are some goals you have for the upcoming year?
My three goals for the year are to practice mindfulness in everything I do, learn more Cantonese so I can talk to my grandparents and elders more, and learn another instrument.
For this year, my goals are to practice more gratitude in all of my relationships, whether it be work, family, or friends.