This is what I remember about the Lunar New Year as a child: I got to stay up late to go to temple, people gave me money in red envelopes for no other reason than I was a kid, and a week of endless buffets with relatives. As an adult, this holiday has taken on a new meaning. Now, I can barely keep my eyes open for it to hit midnight, I send money home to stuff red envelopes for my nephews, and I organize my life around the Asian zodiac in a way that I mocked my parents for doing (sorry mom and dad).
Let me go back a little. I should start by saying that like many other Asian cultures, the Vietnamese use the Gregorian or Western calendar for our day-to-day activities, but still celebrate our New Year’s according to the lunar calendar. The Vietnamese New Year, our biggest holiday, is called Tet and follows the Asian zodiac, which means each year is associated with a different animal with a total of 12 animal years.
So for many Asian people, this week, not three weeks ago, starts our new year. And this year is like no other year – it’s the year of luck and fortune, also known as the year of the dragon. It’s believed that major events taking place during the year of the dragon are lucky. And a major event that people commonly aim for is having a baby.
Two rabbits and a tiger celebrate
the New Year with grandma.
This weekend, as I celebrated New Year’s eve with my fiancé at our favorite Chinese restaurant in the DC area (also former President George H. Bush’s favorite Chinese restaurant – probably the only thing I’ll ever have in common with him), we talked endlessly about how to set a wedding date in the midst of an oncoming baby boom. Every person I know (most importantly my sisters) are either pregnant or trying to get pregnant and would have trouble traveling to our wedding.
However, our conversation quickly veered from our wedding to why I thought mothers of dragon babies would be particularly lucky:
- Most employers are required to allow women reasonable breaks and a location to pump breast milk.
- Starting in August, breastfeeding expenses will be covered in most plans without a co-pay.
- And most significantly, no dragon baby this year will ever have to think about whether a pre-existing condition will affect their ability to get health coverage. Currently, children under 19 cannot be denied health coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
Okay – it’s not luck – it’s thanks to the health care law.
For the many of us who fought hard for this law, it’s for people like the baby dragons coming this year (and the baby rabbits of last year, and the baby tigers of the year before). Knowing that we will have a boon of American babies – tiny dragons who can dream just a bit bigger because they will not be tethered to a job they don’t enjoy or can pursue a business they dreamt up in their basement even though they were born with asthma/diabetes/(fill the blank with an illness) is one of the most exciting things about the coming year. So let the baby boon come – and other exciting things (like getting married) can wait for the year of the snake.