How To Give Celebratory Greetings, Or Saturday Morning at 9:45am – Privilege


Happy Lunar New Year! Specifically, Happy Lunar New Year in Mandarin!

On top of wishing you well, I wanted to ask, how do you extend greetings for holidays you don’t celebrate, in languages that you possibly don’t speak? My close circle includes people are Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, Protestant as well as those who believe in the-universe-is-great-and-magical. Some come from families who came in turn from Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Some speak, in addition to English, Portuguese, Hebrew, Spanish and Mandarin, not to mention a dialect the name of which I do not know.

In recent years I’ve taken to texting specific holiday greetings to my dear ones, first making sure I know the right words. But I’ll also use these greeting for microinteractions, if I’m 100% sure where the person I’m talking to comes from.

Picking up Chinese food yesterday, at a family-owned restaurant where I’ve been many times before, I said to the man at the register, “Xin nian kuai le!” I knew his family was from Hebei, having had that conversation (in English, to be sure) with one of the sons, so I knew a Mandarin greeting was appropriate. Had it been a Southern Chinese restaurant, or I was 100% certain they spoke Cantonese, I’d have said, “Gong hei fat choy!”

In both cases, I’m surely mangling the pronunciation. The Chinese language, both Mandarin and Cantonese, relies on tones, a rising, falling, level pitch, to create the full meaning of sound-alike syllables. I can’t remember the tones to save my life, except I’ve been told I order “gai lan,” “Chinese broccoli,” very correctly. Usage makes perfect, and that’s always been my go-to shared lunch order.

The thing is, the man at that cash register smiled anyway. Whether it was a, “Wow, this old lady is butchering Happy New Year,” kind of smile or a, “Who knew she’d even try, that’s fun,” grin, I don’t know and I didn’t care. I believe that if you do your homework, and then, this is important, shoulder any embarrassment for your failures yourself rather than insisting on apologies and forgiveness by the other, at the very least you’ve done no harm.

I could be wrong. What do you think? I am sure this community can improve upon my practice. Gong hei fat choy! Anyone know the Lunar New Year greeting in other languages? Have an excellent weekend all around!

The post How To Give Celebratory Greetings, Or Saturday Morning at 9:45am appeared first on Privilege.

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