Chinese New Year, In Philly, with My Indonesian Family (by Trey Santiago)

This initially started off with my host mom, Sandy, asking one evening if my classmate, Brady, and I are going to be busy the following Monday night. I had to regretfully remind her that we were going to have class. I wasn’t sure exactly what we were going to be doing on a Monday night, especially because my family is usually busy until late. She told me that next week was going to be Chinese New Year and my host family was going to have dinner with their friends and family to celebrate. My initial thoughts had me wondering how Indonesians celebrate the new year and if it was similar to the Chinese traditions I read about when I was taking my Chinese classes in high school. I later found out that a lot of Indonesians celebrate the new year, especially the ones in Philadelphia, since a lot of them stem from Chinese-Indonesian ancestry.
Monday arrived, I dressed in what little red I had packed, and we drove to Chinatown; where my family had rented a room for the occasion. They had three large tables set up in the room along with a karaoke system – used mainly by my grandpa. My family started socializing with everyone as soon as we got there. I was introduced to a few of their relatives. At this time the adults were handing out these red envelopes to the children which contained some money. My host mom even gave one to me. I was told that they hand out money during the new year, in a belief that they will receive more money as the year progresses. This was a tradition I did learn about in class. After this we took some group pictures and then the servers started to bring out the food.
There was a total of 14 dishes, however, instead of bringing them all out at once, they brought them out one at a time. Everyone started eating the first dish right away. Often one dish was empty by the time the next one was brought out. We continued to socialize, and I had a great time. It was fun to try different food items. I am glad that I got to experience this with my family.