Chinese New Year Traditions

Two months and five days after New Year’s Day, people all over the world celebrated Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, not for one day, but for fifteen days. The Lunar New Year, coordinated by the cycles of the moon, falls on different days of the Gregorian calendar, usually in late January or February. This year was the Year of the Pig, the twelfth zodiac cycle and the last cycle of the Chinese zodiac animals. Here at Westminster, many Asians celebrated the traditions from their ethnic countries.
Chinese teacheChineser Lily Liu celebrated New Year with her classes. This year, Liu took some of her classes to a Chinese restaurant and others to a Chinese bookstore to celebrate.
“For me, Chinese New Year is a holiday that is very similar to Christmas; it is a family reunion holiday,” said Liu.
Family reunions are a big part of the Chinese New Year celebration. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, family members will get together and eat a celebratory dinner.
“Every family member, no matter how far they are, try to go back to their parents’ home to join the dinner,” said Liu. “That dinner is very important.”
While Chinese New Year is celebrated with great festivity in China, some traditions from Chinese New Year are sometimes difficult to adhere to in the United States, like the reunion. It is difficult for overseas family members to leave their job, as Chinese New Year is not an official holiday in many countries.
“I have not been able to have a reunion with my family in this holiday for about 30 years since I came to the United States,” said Liu.
Furthermore, red decorations, which signify happiness and good luck, are a big part of Chinese New Year. In Asia, Chinese families spend weeks decorating and preparing food for the New Year festivities. Here in the States, not too many Chinese families spend as much time and effort to prepare for it; instead, other traditions like the giving of red envelopes are more prominent in the States.
In addition to the field trips, Liu gave all of her classes red envelopes, which are tokens of good luck and a symbolic tradition of Chinese New Year.
“On the first day of Chinese New Year, children say greetings to their elders and are given red envelopes stuffed with money,” said Liu.
Freshman Noah Chen said that while his family does not celebrate Chinese New Year anymore, he still receives red envelopes from his grandparents. Chen’s family is similar to many other Asian communities in America; while they may not celebrate the holiday as festively as they would in their home countries, they still celebrate a few traditions that are easy to celebrate in America.
However, within the Asian communities in Atlanta, there are still many Chinese New Year festivals and celebrations. Freshman Samantha Yu helped plant Adzuki beans with the DirtCats, which originate from East Asia and are used in many traditional Asian desserts, such as red bean soup and red bean buns.
“I celebrate Chinese New Year at my cousin’s house and we cook up a bunch of Chinese food together,” said Yu.
Chinese New Year is full of symbols, and the food eaten during it is chosen specially. Making dumplings is a popular tradition the night before Chinese New Year.
“My family and I make dumplings from scratch every year together. We also celebrate with some Chinese desserts like rice ball soup,” said Yu.
Sophomore Andrew Mao and his family celebrate Chinese New Year every year with special food, such as sweet rice balls, fish, dumplings, rice cake, noodles, and spring rolls. Each of these foods symbolize certain aspects of good fortune; the rice balls represent family togetherness, the fish represents prosperity, the dumplings and the spring rolls represent wealth, the noodles represent longevity, and the rice cake represents higher income.
To Mao and other students, beyond the food, symbols, festivities, the holiday means family time and cultural immersion.
“This holiday is a way to celebrate and represent my Asian culture and history with family members I rarely see,” said Yu.
The aspect of family in Chinese New Year is the central part of the holiday, and the sense of love for one other felt throughout the traditions is what gives these traditions their importance.
“On Chinese New Year Eve and the morning of Chinese New Year, I usually call my parents,” said Liu. “Just to hear what they are doing is a huge comfort. Even though I feel far away, I still feel like part of the family. I can even hear when they fire the firecrackers and hear their laughs when they wrap dumplings.”
In the future, Liu hopes that the traditions of this holiday do not fade away, emphasizing how much it means to her.
“You guys are the next generation to carry this tradition,” Liu said.