by Pattie Yu, 1998 WWPR Woman of the Year Award Winner, principal and founder of theYucrew, LLC.
Today, culture consumed me. I opened up my WaPo to pounding media rhetoric and anti-Asian hate sentiment. I took an early morning walk in the mall well before opening, delighting in the shiny red lanterns hanging at every turn, heartened by companies and brands that genuinely strengthen their relationships and collabs with Asian American communities by cultural latitude vs marcom attitude. But I was also barraged by big brands’ blitz for limited editions or capsule collections around the Year of the Dragon.
I retreated to my home office and was reminded as a public relations professional who focuses often on health platforms of the dire need to close the gap in data collection and reporting of Asian American health disparities. I scanned the latest issue of a professional trade magazine that spotlighted the forgotten but early diversity leadership representation in our field. This month I’m seeing red.
The irony of codifying the color red – the palette most associated with love but also the color most frequently linked to hatred and anger. The common denominator in both is passion.
This month my passion is ignited by the Lunar New Year — The Year of the Dragon.
Known as the Spring Festival, China’s Lunar New Year is called Chūn jié in Mandarin; while Koreans celebrate Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tết;Filipinos call it Media Noche. It begins with the first new moon on February 10 (varies by culture) and is usually celebrated for multiple days, observed by an estimated 2 billion people. It is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asians. For me, a Chinese American, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon in the lunar zodiac.
Lunar New Year is a big holiday in Asian culture across the world and it’s important to note that Asians are one of the fastest growing racial/ethnic segments in the United States. So, how can you get in on the celebration, whether you are or work with one of the estimated 5% Asians in public relations or not? In our nation’s tapestry of many colors, we share a common context – a deep-rooted love for our extended and multigenerational families, an appetite for food that preserves our heritage and enables us to share our cultural traditions around the “family” table, part of our storytelling that is germane to communities of any color.
In homage to my late parents, I hear their voices guiding me on how to celebrate the Lunar New Year:
- Fresh Start – Pay off your debts; give your space/place a clean sweep to rid it of inauspicious spirits; wash your hair; do the laundry – before New Year’s but never on the day itself lest you sweep out good luck.
- Go Red – Not only for Women’s Heart Month and Valentine’s Day but wear something new and red on New Year’s Day for good luck; red is the symbol of joy, happiness, success and good fortune. Decorate your windows with red paper cuttings; hang banner couplets expressing wishes for good health and fortune in your homes and offices.
- Food – Feast on traditional lucky foods like dumplings (wealth), oranges (abundant happiness), fish (prosperity), and noodles (the longer the better for happiness and longevity) but leave a little on the plate to hope that the new year will have surplus; join colleagues at a nearby Asian restaurant for lunch; or prepare an Asian-inspired dinner at home.
- Family – If logistics allow, reunite with family and friends for a spread of symbolic dishes that bring good luck and fortune.
- Festivities – Participate in free Lunar New Year activities that abound in our communities from lion dances at the mall to dragon parades punctuated by firecrackers to ward off evil spirits; from ceremonial teas to teeing up for talks and tours; from cooking demos to dancing with fans, culminating with the Lantern Festival.
You might even get lucky to get “lucky money,” red envelopes often given by elders to children but sometimes even to employees. Money should be in certain denominations but avoid the number 4 (symbolizing death).
After my parents passed, I got the slap on the side of the head – the “aha!” moment that we wake up to after loss. I try to be more mindful of those beloved traditions and am heartened to hear that our eight “family” members who are young hard working professionals in New York have already made plans to gather around for what no doubt will be an IG-worthy Chinese New Year’s meal. They may enhance celebrating tradition with emojis and digital platforms but I am convinced they all cherish the essence of our new year. No doubt they will all be wearing red. No virtual transfers of money here. Their traditional paper hong baos (red envelopes) are en route the good old-fashioned way.
Finally, if the two-week celebration has you yearning for more, consider exploring the small but mighty Chinese American Museum where I volunteer at Chinese American Museum.
In native Mandarin – which I feebly learned in college – I’m wishing you and yours Xīn nián kuài lè! 新年快乐 – Happy New Year!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pattie Yu is the principal and founder of theYucrew, LLC, a communications firm that has been awarded two Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Silver Anvils for her team’s launch of the first World Thrombrosis Day, amongst many other industry awards. Pattie is a past WWPR Woman of the Year award recipient, was recognized as Inside PR’s “One of the Top 10 Minority Agency Leaders Nationwide,” and has been a judge on several industry award ceremonies, including WWPRs Woman of the Year. Pattie is one of WWPR’s original members and served on the WWPR advisory board. Pattie’s work ranges from developing national public education campaigns to developing media strategies to reach underserved communities for topics including COVID-19 and renewable energy access. Pattie has worked with some of the biggest names in PR, including serving as vice president at Porter Novelli, partner at Fleishman-Hillard, and co-founder of GYMR. She speaks at universities, organizations and associations and volunteers for several organizations.