Celebrating Chinese New Year with the Begeman Family
Throughout our 29 years of ministry serving families and vulnerable children around the world, we have had the joy of linking arms with many incredible families and guiding them through the adoption process. However, we don’t always have the honor and privilege of partnering with the same family on each of their five separate adoptions.
Today, we’d like to introduce you to the Begeman family, who adopted their children through America World’s China program. Maria Begeman shares with us how their family has celebrated Chinese New Year over the years and how being in the military has allowed them to live in different regions of the U.S., where they’ve been able to take advantage of learning and experiencing even more of their children’s culture, particularly from the Chinese communities where they have lived. Their family also had the unique experience of completing two of their adoptions in China right before the Lunar New Year, allowing them to experience this memorable holiday while traveling in China.
Our Chinese New Year Story
By Maria Begeman
Learning About Lunar New Year
The winter after we adopted our first daughter from China, our Malaysian neighbor knocked on the door of our home in Virginia and presented our daughter with a red envelope with a dollar inside. This gift was our family’s first personal introduction to Chinese New Year. We only grasped the importance of this celebration once we traveled to China in February of 2007 to adopt our second daughter.
Just a few weeks before the Lunar New Year celebration, the hotels & restaurants were beautifully decorated with orange trees and trees with beautiful pink blossoms and red envelopes dangling from their branches. Giant silk decorations highlighted the Year of the Pig outside the big department stores and in open plazas. Everything was so colorful and bright. We eagerly purchased lanterns and red envelopes with Hello Kitty on them, much to the delight of our 3-year-old daughter, who traveled with us.
We were amazed to see long lines wrapped around train stations. Our guide explained that everyone goes home for Chinese New Year. Our travel group was disappointed to find many shops shut down; family reunions obviously trumped the opportunity to make a few more yuan off the tourists.
At the time of our second adoption, we lived in Virginia and belonged to a church with a sizeable Chinese population. This church had its own Chinese pastor and Chinese church service, and we eagerly learned as much as we could from the Chinese brothers and sisters in our fellowship. Some of the “Ayis” graciously taught a small group of adoptive families how to prepare some delicious Chinese dishes. (Bonnie’s peppered beef is a family favorite of ours still to this day.)
One year, we joined the Chinese New Year celebration of the Chinese congregation (imagine something like a large community group gathering for worship music and food), and we mainly came as observers. The next year, some of the ladies who had organized the cooking classes offered to host a special Chinese New Year celebration for a growing group of adoptive families. These ladies and their families taught us Chinese calligraphy and simple Chinese phrases, prepared delicious traditional dishes, performed songs on traditional Chinese instruments, and entertained the children with Chinese YoYo demonstrations. The event grew year after year, and our last CNY celebration in 2011 had over a hundred people in attendance.
Lunar New Year in Los Angeles
By this time, we had adopted our son and started the paperwork for our fourth adoption. Later that summer, my husband’s Air Force career moved us to Los Angeles, where we befriended families of Asian descent and families who had adopted children from China and Taiwan who were within our church. We gathered with these families several years in a row at a Chinese restaurant for a Chinese New Year dinner. Our children never grew weary of receiving red envelopes from the other adults.
A highlight of our celebration was a small parade of children marching through the restaurant with the Chinese lion we bought in Monterey Park, home to a large Chinese community in Los Angeles. The lion was one purchase we never regretted! While living in L.A., we joined other adoptive families who marched in the Chinatown Dragon parade.
During our time in Los Angeles, our children were excited to meet the beautiful princesses of the Dragon parade royal court and when they made appearances at the Chinese New Year banquets for the local chapter of Families with Children from China (FCC). We also enjoyed the Chinese heritage events hosted by the same group.
Heading Back to China
Our fourth trip to China also occurred right before Chinese New Year, so we purchased more decorations for our home and additional red envelopes while there. We enjoyed the colorful Year of the Snake decorations and the City Wall of Xi’an, beautifully adorned for the occasion. Our family made the most of our time in Los Angeles, frequenting Monterey Park’s dim sum restaurants and Chinese shops where we could sample Chinese teas and purchase red envelopes each year. It always felt like a visit to China.
Lunar New Year in South Dakota
In 2021, we moved to South Dakota, where my husband is originally from. While we miss the dim sum restaurants of Los Angeles and certainly meet fewer Asians here, we were grateful to have met a friendly Chinese lady at Costco last week who invited us to the local Sioux Falls Lunar New Year celebration. Organized mainly by Vietnamese community members, this event was a rich experience for us all. Because of the pandemic, our two youngest sons had never experienced a lion dance in person until this past weekend, so we braved the cold, attended the festival, and it was well worth it. All three of our boys were awed by the Chinese Yoyo performance and the lion dance, and our two youngest enjoyed getting a crisp $2 bill in a red envelope.
As part of the Lunar New Year holiday, I gave a Chinese New Year presentation with our youngest son for his second-grade class last week. After the presentation, one of his classmates begged me to teach her more about China. Proudly wearing his Chinese outfit, our son was a bit of a celebrity among his classmates when they crowded around him for a picture.
While each year may look slightly different with events or activities, we continue to decorate our house for Chinese New Year and give our children their hóngbāo (red envelopes). Being a military family has given us unique opportunities to learn about different cultures and celebrate Chinese New Year, a vital part of our children’s heritage. This time of the year also brings back fond memories of our trips to China and the Chinese friends we have met along our journey, who have taught our family more about the country of our children’s birth.
It is always a joy to see families grow through adoption. We love hearing stories about the path God orchestrates for each family, both during their adoption journey and the years after. Thank you, Maria, for sharing your family’s story!
What About You?
Is your family considering adoption and would like to learn more about our programs? A great way to learn about our programs and see if you qualify for a particular program is by completing our online FREE PRE-APPLICATION. Upon completing our brief pre-application, our staff will help guide you toward what programs might be the best fit for your family. As always, contact our staff at email@example.com or by phone at 800-429-3369.
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