Writing prompt: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year in Chinatown, 2006.

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Chinese New Year” (This post was inspired by the time I wandered into Chinese New Year in Chinatown when i lived in New Jersey in 2006. It was a beautiful, soaking mess.)

The paper rockets exploded and the streamers coated the wrought iron railings. A dragon head bobbled down the street attended by a great drum. The rain poured from the sky, and the streets and sidewalks were full of umbrellas and vendors with umbrellas to sell, 3 for $5. It was Chinese New Year in Chinatown.

Elsie felt like it was a transformative cultural experience, a fresh excitement in the general excitement of New York.

“This is the year of the goat,” Cynthia said. Elsie was still struggling with her accent. There hadn’t been many Chinese speakers in Nebraska. “The goat is a lucky animal, its year suggests prosperity.”

“I hope,” Elsie said. “This is my year, the year it will all change.” She’d been in the city for a month. So far, she had spent more than she had, walked through gray snow, and tried not to smell aged trash.

Cynthia shrugged. “The goat also means stubbornness, a resistance to change. Maybe for many people, this is what luck is all about, not losing what you treasure.”

Elsie waved the thought away.  The rain was turning to sleet. Elsie jammed her hand back into her pocket.

They followed the parades. Cynthia, smiling, recited facts about various parts of the festival. Elsie mostly didn’t listen.

The street was a mess with paper and debris. But a shiny red envelope caught Elsie’s eye. She picked it up.

Cynthia smiled. “As a child, you get money in envelopes like these. It was very exciting.”

The envelope bore no identifiers or markings. Elsie looked inside. It was full of money. “It is the year of prosperity! I mean, I can’t even try to return it!”


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