By Kerry Chan ’15 and Sabrina Liang ‘15
Gong hay fat choy! January 31, 2014, officially begins the year of the horse, according to the lunar calendar. Lion dances, dragon dances, bang snappers, silly string cans, party poppers, and Chinese New Year themed parade floats fill the streets as people celebrate Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year originated from stories about a beast called “Nian.” In general most variations of this story said Nian terrorized villages and ate livestock and children. A wise man advised villagers to make loud noises with drums, firecrackers and to hang red papers to scare Nian. This is how red became a lucky color. The villagers got rid of Nian and this date became what is known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival.
This myth should not be confused with the Chinese zodiac myth. The Chinese zodiacs represent your personality traits based on the year of birth. The order of the animals in the zodiac was based on a race where the rat tricked the rest of the animals and came in first place. The horse won seventh place.
It is a common misconception that Chinese New Year is a one day celebration. This is not the case; Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days. The most important days are the first, second, and last. The first day represents the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth. On the second day, Chinese people pray to their ancestors and gods. The last day is the lantern festival, when lanterns are lit to worship Buddha.
Before Chinese New Year starts, households clean, decorate and prepare for Chinese New Year.
“It’s a tradition,” said Andrea Lee ’17. “Before, my family
and I clean and after I dress nicely and eat in a restaurant or at home.”
According to tradition many foods are eaten to promote health, happiness and wealth. For example, people eat jiaozi, fried dumpling filled with peanuts and sugar as a token of good fortune. Tangyuan, a type of glutinous rice flour dumpling, represents family togetherness and happiness. Fa Gao or prosperity cupcakes bring prosperity. Mandarins are symbols of wealth and good fortune.
“I had a family gathering at my aunt’s house this year, and we had a feast,” said Samantha Sing ’15. “I like Chinese New Year because I got to spend time with my family.”
Chinese New Year brings family members together. It is a day to worship deities and ancestors, to wish for happiness in the New Year. However, to most of the younger generation this is a holiday when kids receive money in a red envelope, a symbol for good luck .
Richard Wu ’15 said, “I mostly look forward to getting red envelopes. Our generation doesn’t really care about the history.”
Every Chinese New Year there are parades in New York City, in places like Canal Street, Eight Avenue, and Flushing.
“I think it’s a good way for people of other cultures to experience Chinese culture,” said Sunita Rakkhal’15. “Because this country is so diverse, hosting parades is a good way to see other cultures.”