Chinese New Year & Culture

This past Monday was Chinese New Year (AKA Asian New Year since many other Asian countries, it seems, celebrate it, too). It was also, incidentally, Elisa’s and my one-year wedding anniversary. Apropos, I would say. Chinese New Year is supposed to be a time of new beginnings–and certainly moving to a country you’ve never been to for an unspecified number of years is a pretty darn new beginning. But Chinese New Year is also, it turns out, about being blessed with the good fortunate of greater health, happiness, love, and money.

The delicious New Year dinner! I think I’m drumming on the table with my chopsticks at this point, which apparently is a big no-no in Chinese culture. Oops.


A good friend of ours, one of the young Chinese men who became a Christian last semester, invited us over to his house on Sunday night for a traditional Chinese dinner, which was very delicious, save for the boiled animal intestines. He also made sure to add many bean sprouts to one of the dishes because, as he told me at least, they represent money, and eating many of them will ensure you’ll have lots of money in the new year. In Italy, they have a similar tradition of eating lentils on New Year’s Eve for the same purpose. (And before we Americans get up on our high horse, it’s popular in much of the South to do the same thing with black-eyed peas.)

The reason I bring that up isn’t because I want to slight the Chinese, Italians or even Americans for have superstitions like that. (Let’s be honest, few Chinese, Italians or Americans are actually running frantically around on New Years’ Eve trying to find beans for fear of poverty.) I mainly do it because it seems like every time I meet with an international student I learn something new about their culture or customs or superstitions of beliefs that I didn’t know beforehand. Which is really exciting. And really freaking scary. Because the way we communicate the Gospel should be done in a way that’s understandable. We talked about that this week in our first Bible study of the semester (called “We Will Follow” after a Jars of Clay song, since we’re looking at what it means to follow Jesus). Elisa and I shared with them the story of Jesus calling His first disciples and then Philip’s subsequent invitation of Nathanael to come see Jesus for himself. Maybe I’m pushing too far too fast, but we ended the study by talking about the importance of evangelism and sharing the story of Jesus with other Chinese students in a way that will make sense to them. (I learned from some crazy awesome people in Kazakhstan that no one ever changed the world–or at least significantly impacted people’s lives–by playing it safe.) Who knows if they’ll fully embrace this call, since, after all, half of them aren’t Christians yet. But hey! It’s a time of new beginnings, and I can think of no better beginning than a bunch of Chinese students leading their friends to follow Jesus with them.


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