The first day of the year in the lunar calendar is to many Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese who live outside their home countries, the most important festival of the year that they celebrate. Other Asian ethnic groups may join the festivity in their neighborhoods even though they observe their owe New Year days. For example, the Thais honor their Songkran (Water Festival) in April or the Gujaratis celebrate theirs the day before the Asian Indian Diwali (the Festival of Lights) in late October or early November. As for the Japanese and Filipinos, they choose to observe the Gregorian New Year. With this festive day around the corner, let’s look at some of the New Year traditions of Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese.
One of the richest adventures I’ve had in my adult life is working as a resident chaplain in an urban setting. I worked for two years for a major hospital system in Houston, Texas. This hospital system had a mission statement of serving its diverse community and offering appropriate pastoral care. What I came to understand from this work experience was the incredible ethnic diversity as well as the religious diversity represented by patients in the hospital. I learned this as I made my rounds through the ER, ICU, Ambulatory Care, and other surgical units.
To honor the success of Asian Americans in this country, I would like to highlight the professional lives of five prominent Asian female executives. They have demonstrated a sense of pride in their own heritage and that this has not diminished their professional success in the western world. They are among the most powerful women in the U.S.
Do you recall the first time you stepped into an international business reception at a major hotel and found yourself amidst a sea of Asian faces? If so, you may also have noticed a diversity of Asian cultures and conversations in some incomprehensible languages: Cantonese Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and perhaps others. If you have been put off when people in your presence have spoken a language other than English, you are not alone.
Asian Americans comprise about 4.5% of the United States. Among them, the Chinese Americans, with a little over three million—constitute the largest Asian ethnic group in the U.S. Most of them arrived at this country in three separate immigration waves, each characterized by its own set of reasons for migration.
Not long ago, Texas made history. It became a majority minority state. In other words, the minorities together make up more than 50% of the population. Here in Texas, diversity is a buzzword. Not only does it attract attention, it gets people excited, who now want to jump on the bandwagon to organize diversity initiatives such as cultural sensitivity training or setting up a diversity council.
The nation is crying out for universal health care reform to provide adequate health insurance for the diverse citizens in the nation. Yet, American diversity includes a group of individuals who remain silent as they continue to face limited access to health care because of their limited English proficiency (LEP). A study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April, 2008 indicated that during 2004-2006 almost one third of non-elderly Korean Americans in the US do not have health insurance.
To many of us, the idea of using two sticks with one hand to pick up a piece of chicken or vegetable from a plate or bowl and putting that same piece of chicken or vegetable into our mouth without dropping it is beyond one’s imagination. However, this is what one out of every five people in the world does at mealtime on a daily basis. These people with such dexterity with chopsticks live in what we call “chopsticks nations” such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.