Su kwan and birthdays–where cultures merge

My grandson, Lennox, turns 1 on Aug. 17. His mother, Lori,  (my daughter) is caucasian and his father, Johnny, is Laotian. His parents came to America in the ’70s in search of a better life for their family.

Lennox’s Su Kwan offerings

Johnny was born in the U.S., but his three older brothers were born in Laos. One unique thing about Johnny–he doesn’t have a middle name. When I asked Lori why, she said that no one really knows.

Though Johnny’s brothers, Andrew, Sam, and Jerry were born with Laotian names, they were given new names when they arrived in the states.

Lori and Johnny have two children; Lily and Lennox. Lily will be 4 in December. Lori and Johnny are not legally married, but they were blessed by a monk when Lily had her “Su Kwan,” (a Buddhist ceremony similar to a baptism) making them married in the religious aspect.

Lily has light brown curly hair and hazel eyes. Her Asian culture is apparent through her beautiful almond-shaped eyes. Lennox is the spitting image of his father; dark hair, dark eyes, dark complexion.

When I first met Johnny’s family, I was a little bewildered by their traditions. They like to celebrate, and every celebration was a reason to eat and drink. They invite family, friends, co-workers; anyone who is a part of their lives. They really enjoy life and having fun.

Lennox Angsouvan

The family has incorporated many American traditions into their lives since they came to the U.S. But however Americanized the family is, their culture is still apparent in many things they do. Foods that we would think twice about eating, such as bean curds and chicken feet, are common-place in their household, and rice is fixed with every meal.

They speak Laotian fluently in their household and are teaching the younger generation about their culture and language. Lori has done her best to learn their culture, as well, picking up bits and pieces of the language and fixing Laotian foods Johnny likes. Johnny’s parents visit Laos every chance they get and bring back gifts that symbolize their culture.

And they celebrate; Laotian-style.

I attended Lennox’s Su Kwan Aug. 13, which also doubled as his 1st birthday party. Being 1, he really had no concept of what was going on and was just happy to have the attention he was getting.

The large house was filled to capacity with diverse cultures and everyone had a great time laughing and enjoying each other’s company. The monk conducted the short ceremony in the middle of the living room floor, while those who had never been to a Su Kwan were fascinated by the food and treats that were laid out in offering. Little yarn bracelets hung from the centerpiece, from which long pieces of strings were attached. The monk gave a blessing, and everyone tied the bracelets to each others’ wrists, saying a blessing to them, as well.

Lily in a traditional Laotian dress

Lennox cried, which seems to be typical of most babies in that situation. But when the cake and presents came,he forgot all about his foul mood and had a great time.

Though Lori and Johnny have been together for quite a while, I still am amazed in the difference of our cultures….but inside we’re all still pretty much the same.


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