A reflection of our parents, ourselves, and our history.
Our friend Kathy was a guest in Season One of the Root & Seed Podcast and we loved our conversation with her because it made us really reflect on the relationship we have with our grandparents. She has a very close relationship with her grandmother, but it was when we asked her who she would invite to a “cultural dinner party” that we were surprised why she wanted to invite her grandfather. To be fair, she actually wanted to invite all her grandparents in order to “hear their perspectives”, but Kathy elaborates that she feels like understanding her grandfather would help her better understand her own father. She explains her relationship with her father: “We're both stubborn in our own ways. I like to think that I'm stubborn for righteous reasons, but you know, nonetheless, we have different views on things. Oftentimes, when we have disagreements, I try to be calm; I try to come from a compassionate point of view and consider his upbringing.”
Kathy recognizes the value and benefit that comes from her father’s mother, “I grew up with my grandmother… so I can understand part of it, but I would really love to have my grandfather attend to understand how he was. Because I think if I can understand how he was, he'll give me some insights into my father as well and what his experiences were.”
Our relationships with our grandparents can provide insight into not just our parents… but even into our own personalities. Grandparents are full of strength, wisdom, information, and guidance. They are treasure chests full of stories, history, and tradition. Kathy has recognized that “seeing my parents and grandmother getting older and appreciating their sacrifice” really made her want to document those stories and traditions because “I know that when she passes, a lot of those traditions will go along with her because she's the one that leads all these rituals and traditions.”
In Kathy’s own photo documentary, she shares beautiful images of the customs that her grandmother upholds. Though Kathy’s story focuses on Lunar New Year, she recalled in Episode 5 of the R&S Podcast that the experience revealed insights into her entire life: “I spent a few days with her and while she did the rituals it gave me a great opportunity to also reflect back on my childhood experiences and not just around Lunar New Year specifically, but those values that are part of the Lunar New Year festival that is experienced through all areas of our life.”
We urge you to go to Kathy’s photo documentary and experience the full Lunar New Year story, but it’s the part about Kathy’s grandmother’s strength and devotion that we would be amiss to not share:
“I don't remember what the temperature was on this day, but it was freezing. It was so cold, I had to pop back in the house every 5 mins to warm my hands. Yet, with her bare hands holding the incenses, my grandmother would brave the frigid air and devotedly pray to the deities for our family's health, prosperity, and protection.
“Her strength and devotion don't surprise me though. Despite her age, my grandmother is one of the toughest cookies I know. I recall walking home one night from work, which is literally down the street from our house. There is a long stretch that is by an open field and a dark bridge which was a bit sketchy and scary. As I'm approaching the bridge, I can see a silhouette at the other end. As I get closer, I see a tiny old woman standing at the bottom of the staircase with a long wooden stick. It's my grandmother! She's waiting for me to make sure I got home safely, and no doubt, ready to use the stick if needed That's my granny. Always protecting the family.
“To this day, this is the same ritual we do every time. I know there will come a day, where my grandmother would no longer be here to lead this. The thought of this can easily make me emotional, but I try not to think about it. Instead, I'm trying to document, learn and share what I can, in hopes that some of these traditions can be preserved and memories of her shared with our future generations.”
Please visit Kathy's Photo Documentary to see all her Grandmother's Lunar New Year Rituals & Traditions.