Chinese New Year is traditionally a time for family, but UR students are finding ways to celebrate on campus.
The Chinese New Year began on Feb. 12, 2002, which is the first day in the Year of the Horse. According to the Chinese calendar, it is year 4699. Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later.
Chinese New Year’s Day varies each year according to the Chinese calendar, which is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days. To “catch up” with the solar calendar, the Chinese add an extra month once every few years. This is the reason Chinese New Year occurs on a different date each year.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family matter and is a time of gathering, blessing and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally a religious ceremony honoring heaven and earth, along with the gods of the household and the past and present family ancestors.
Since most UR students are not able to be with their family and close relatives, they celebrate China Awareness Week.
For the Chinese Students’ Association, China Week is a huge undertaking. “Planning for China Nite started in November of last semester,” senior and Coordinator of China Nite Shu Ting Chan said.
“We start with finding coordinators to manage different parts of China Nite.”
China Week allows students to prepare culturally for the New Year and to educate the campus about Chinese culture.
“China Nite brings together both tradition and newer facets of Chinese culture,” senior and CSA president Jessica Yu said. “These ideals are exemplified through our dances and other acts.
“The goals of awareness week are mainly to bring together the Chinese community, to introduce the university to various aspects of Chinese culture, and to provide a place where students and faculty can learn interesting skills like calligraphy, making ribbon and paper ornaments, and see an actual Tai Chi demonstration,” she said.
On New Year’s Eve, family members usually visit their parents’ home for a special meal together. Various foods are prepared and eaten because of their positive symbolic significances.
“A Chinese New Year at home for me is usually spent with family or close family friends,” said junior and CSA secretary Joleen Lee. “We always have a huge dinner, with tons of traditional Chinese dishes. At UR, it’s harder to celebrate. Usually, my family will call to wish a happy New Year’s, but that’s the extent of it.”
At New Year, people greet each other with the phrase, “Gung Hay Fat Choy.” In doing so, they are wishing each other congratulations and prosperity. Other salutations include “good health,” “hope you make academic progress,” “hope you get a promotion at work,” and “congratulations and blessings for many children.”
Most of the time, families will call on relatives and friends to wish them a happy new year. The younger members of a family must always visit with their elders. This is sign of respect. After “Gung Hay Fat Choy” is wished upon the elders, the elders in return give “lucky money” to the younger members, which is money placed into specially designed bright red envelopes.
Those who are married usually give it to their children and to unmarried children of relatives and friends. Also, while visiting the homes of relatives and friends, New Years gifts are presented to the host or hostess. In return for the gifts, red “lucky money” envelopes are given.
“It’s like Christmas. Instead of gift giving, we give lucky money,” junior and business manager of CSA Michelle Li said.
Red envelopes are not only limited to New Year celebrations. “Lucky money” is often given throughout the year for weddings, birthdays, graduations and other events.
The practice of giving red “lucky money” captures a very important part of Chinese culture because it suggests that people should always be prepared for any occasion.
The sacrifice to the ancestors is the most essential of all the rituals and unites the living members with those who have passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with enormous respect since they were responsible for setting the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.
The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year’s Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The spirits of the ancestors, together with the living, celebrate the beginning of the New Year as one great community. The communal feast symbolizes family unity and honors the past and present generations.
Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.