Chinese New Year

Sophie Jacques , Staff Writer

The Chinese New Year is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar which is today, Feb. 19. The celebrations traditionally run from Chinese New Year’s Eve, the last day of the month on the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival. The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it’s been called since the 20th century, remains the most important social and economic holiday in China and is the longest celebration in the Chinese calendar.

The Chinese New Year is centuries old and is, traditionally, a time to honor deities and ancestors as well as a time to bring family together for celebration and feasting. The festival is celebrated in communities worldwide and its celebrations may entail activities such as fireworks, lion dances, family gatherings, the giving of red envelopes, and decorating with duilian or Chinese poetry. This poetry is placed on walls and doors used to express happy and hopeful thoughts for the upcoming year.

Chinatown, San Francisco, holds the largest Chinese New Year celebration and parade of its kind outside of Asia. The festival consists of two fairs: The Flower Fair and the Chinatown Community Street Fair. Each year, the Chinese New Year Flower Fair takes on place the weekend before the lunar new year holiday so that families can purchase their traditional holiday plants, flowers and fruits. The fair is set in the heart of San Francisco Chinatown and provides a festive atmosphere in which the community can purchase their annual lunar new year flowers and produce while enjoying traditional Chinese dance, music, art and cultural displays. An estimated 400,000 people will attend this two day fair.

The Chinese Community Street Fair gives the public an opportunity to experience Chinese cultural arts such as lantern and kite making, calligraphy, fine arts demonstrations, folk dance, and puppet shows.There will be floats, dancers, firecrackers, martial arts, acrobatics, school marching bands, and special units celebrating the theme of this years zodiac sign, the goat. Traditional and modern entertainment perform on the main stage throughout both days.

Family gatherings and feasting is a quintessential part of Chinese New Year. Normally, this is the family reunion dinner, especially for those with family members away from home. In the New Year’s Eve dinner, customarily, fish will be served and you can almost always find dumplings on the table. Other dishes are served depending on personal preference. The majority of people will eat New Year’s Eve dinner at home instead of at a restaurant.

There are a few traditions people keep in mind when the New Year approaches. First, the giving of red envelopes. Usually, a red envelope containing money is given by adults and elderly to young children in the New Year days. It was believed that the money in the red packet will suppress the evil from the children, keep them healthy, and give them a long life.

Sophomore Isabel Tran talks about her favorite part of the Chinese New Year celebration: “My favorite part is gathering together as a family. Every year, my father’s side hosts a party that includes a buffet-style meal with both traditional and American food. All of the cousins form a line to receive red envelopes from the uncles and aunties. The festive spirit is evident on each and every one of the kid’s faces as they open and count their money. That same weekend, my family and I usually drive to San Jose to watch the firework, firecracker, and lion parade shows.”

Lastly, people will do a complete cleaning of the house as preparation for the new year. Signifying the removal of the old and welcome the new. Lastly, Shou Sui (translating to “After New Years Eve Dinner”) is often carried out, as family members will normally stay awake during the night. According to tales and legends, there was a mythical beast named the “Year.” At the night of New Year’s Eve, the “Year” will come out to harm people, animals, and proprieties. Later, people found that the “Year” is afraid of the color red, fire, and loud sounds. Therefore, at the New Year’s Eve night, people will launch fireworks, light fires, and stay awake the whole night to fend off the “Year.”

Some of the best Chinese New Year celebrations are held in the Bay Area. From the festivals and entertainment to the century old traditions, Chinese New Year is a time of celebration and festivities everyone should experience.