Celebrating Chinese New Year Is No Monkey Business

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Dragons flood the streets to perform

By Carmen Zheng ’17 and Jessica Wen ’17

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is based on the ancient Chinese calendar. This calendar is used as a religious, dynastic and social guide for the Asian people.

This year Chinese New Year landed on February 8, which is the start of spring according to the calendar. This year the chinese zodiac, or the animal of the year, is the monkey.

Although, the date of the new year and zodiac change yearly, the traditions are always the same.

In order to prepare for the Chinese New Year, many families buy citrus fruits with stem and leaves attached, flowers, snacks like candy and cracker, firework, red paper, and red clothing.

“We try to incorporate red in our outfits and sometimes wear some traditional Chinese clothing,” said Krystal Yuen ’18.

The fireworks, red clothing and red paper are used to bring in luck and to scare away Nian, a monster from the Chinese legend.

In addition, Chinese people go through what is commonly known as the spring cleaning, but it’s never done on the day of the New Year because it is believed that cleaning the house on that day will get rid of all the good fortune in the house.

Also many families gather in restaurants or their own houses for dinner before the new year. Some common dishes that are served are rice cake which are called “nian gao,” sweet rice balls “tangyuan,” sweet rice, fish, egg, and spring rolls.

Sometimes, families meet up and eat a vegetarian meal that contains mushrooms, tofu, noodles, vegetables for breakfast. Other families eat “nian gao,” because the parents want their kids to grow taller since “nian” means taller or higher. Afterwards, dinner would be a large meal containing chicken, fish, and much more.

Different provinces have different cultures. Families from the north eat dumplings to represent the family  all together under one roof and families from the south eat sweet rice or rice cake. Sweet rice and rice cake are sticky; this means that the family would stick together.

“I would eat fish ball, egg and yan wan, which is meat wrap in clear skin,” said Lingyao Liu ‘17 from Fujian, China.

Farrah Chow ’17, from Guangdong stated that her family would eat cha siew, pork cooked in special sauce, chicken, and noodles.

On the eve of Lunar Year, families also gather together to watch the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, a show that is only broadcasted once a year by the Chinese government. In the show, variety of different singers, actors and magicians perform for the viewers.

On the day of Chinese New Year, many families pay visits to each other. This is usually called “bai nian.” This tradition is used to give blessing to families.

The most common greets said during Bai Nian is “gong xi fa cai,” which used to wish others good luck and prosperity.

In return, the adults give children red envelopes that contain money. The purpose of red envelop is to wish the children to stay young and not get any older.

Karen Yin ’17 stated, “The red envelope part is the best part. I get money easily. It’s the part I look forward to every year.”

On the day of Lunar Year families go to the temple to return their wishes or make new wishes of the year to different gods such as Buddha, Guanyin, Tudi Gong Gong, and many more different Chinese gods. Each family donates money to the temple as good deed.

Alison Wang ’17 said, “It’s a yearly tradition that my family and I go to the temple to donate money and make wishes to the gods.”

Later during the day in Chinatown and 8 Avenue there were different parades and events taking place. One major part of the parade is the dragon dance which had been in China’s tradition for more than 2000 years created during the Han dynasty.

Different chinese associations such as the Brooklyn Chinese Association (BCA) hold different events such as performance or give speeches for the new year. On this day is it legal to have firecrackers and fireworks on the street so the people could celebrate.

However, due to the cold and the snow, this year’s parade in Chinatown wasn’t as lively as last year’s.

“This year in 8 Ave. there weren’t many people,” said Elaine Liu ’17. “People who know 8 Ave. know that’s a crowded place, however not many people came out to celebrate this time.”

However, the coldness did not wash away the happiness of the kids. This year The Department of Education decided to give students a day off from school on Lunar New Year. This was a good news to other students too.

“I was happy that this year we can get a day off on Chinese New Year,” said Carlos Munoz ’16. “Chinese students can celebrate their new year while other students can relax at home.”

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