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How Do You Celebrate: One family’s celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Helps Connect Them to Their Chinese Heritage

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In our “How Do You Celebrate?” series, we celebrate diverse cultures and religions through recipe and craft content and share how families honor their religious and cultural traditions.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a very important time for me and my children. When my kids were little, I often asked them, “Where are GongGong (grandpa) and PoPo (grandma) from? Where is MaMa from?”

During that time we would look at the map together and search for the locations where my parents and I grew up. It is where we first instilled our values, traditions and fond memories.

I believe providing my children with opportunities to explore their heritage will help them to connect, embrace and be proud of their Asian background. It is a way to show them that people grow together not just in similarities but also in differences.

For kids, it is about belonging.

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage at home
Celebrating Asian Pacific American heritage is a daily practice in our household. If you come to our home, you will hear us speaking English and Mandarin. Guiding my two Hapa kids to acquire their heritage language has deepened their understanding of Chinese culture. They’ve heard precious family stories from Grandpa and learned how to cook some delicious Chinese dishes with Grandma.

To make Asian Pacific American Heritage Month more fun and meaningful, my kids like to go to the Asian supermarket to pick up their favorite snacks for our Chinese Drama and Movie Night. We also invite friends over for a Heritage Potluck. During the pandemic, my kids even had a World Snack Party with friends on a video call. Another celebration we do is reading diverse books featuring Asian Americans and culture.

What’s also important is to share my children’s heritage culture outside of our home.

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month out in the community

This is like opening the door for others to experience what we enjoy at home.

When I taught at an elementary school in Honolulu, Hawaii, I set up a dumpling-making event. The turnout amazed me with a cafeteria packed with students, teachers, parents and grandparents.

One mother with a European heritage told me, “We make something similar at home — it is called pierogi.” Later, a grandparent shared with me, “My grandchild is usually not interested in trying new food, but today he enjoyed the dumplings and asked for more.” I also heard one father asking his child how to say “dumpling” in Mandarin and the students around him proudly and loudly said, “Jiao zi!”

Children are cultural ambassadors!

We can help them invite friends to discover and experience Asian Pacific American heritage and culture together. Here are three hands-on activities that my children and students have enjoyed tremendously. Give them a try, share and celebrate!

1. Chopstick Challenge
People from China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and many Asian countries use chopsticks when they eat. How do you hold chopsticks? Can you pick up pasta, beans and rice with chopsticks?
Put out three trays with three different-sized grains and use chopsticks to pick them up and place them into a bowl. I always add a bowl of easy-to-pick-up cereal for the kids. Children get a kick out of this activity and always want more snacks on the tray.

2. Write with a Chinese brush
Place the traditional ink pad, ink stone and Chinese brush on the table. The soft brush is very different from the pencils we use today. Children are always happy to know that modern Chinese children do not have to do their homework with a Chinese brush!

3. Eat to Believe
The best way to enjoy a culture is to taste its food. Plan a family trip to one of the international markets near you. If you visit a Chinatown or an Asian district, you might find the ever-popular bubble tea from Taiwan, dim sum from Hong Kong or dumplings from Beijing.