Chinese New Year begins a celebration focused on family
Most people in the U.S. associate bringing in a new year with parties and fireworks. But Chinese New Year is all about keeping close to family, and some CU students get the best of both worlds.
The Chinese New Year, which begins Feb. 18 this year, is a 15-day celebration based on the lunar calendar, hearkening to China’s ancient agricultural roots.
The Chinese New Year is about sharing large dinners and following good-luck traditions with close family members, rather than friends.
“It’s all about bringing in the new. You get new clothes, new stuff and little red envelopes filled with money. Kind of like a birthday celebration,” said sophomore music major Connie Shi.
Shi’s parents came here from northern China a little more than 10 years ago and brought their long-established traditions with them.
One tradition is the wearing of the color red. Red is meant to symbolize good luck and prosperity. Shi’s family, as well as others, celebrates this by providing envelopes filled with money to the younger generations.
Symbolism is a major part of the Chinese New Year and everything celebrated has its roots in old stories passed down.
“The Chinese New Year is based so much more on the symbolic and cultural fortune,” said Andrew Han, a junior business major and president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association. “Red is also important because of a story of a monster that used to terrorize. If you put on a red piece of cloth it would scare him.”
Han and the CSSA helped organize this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations on campus and show a taste of China.
Han, as CSSA president, helps students from China better assimilate to American society. He sees first-hand the cultural differences in America’s new year and the Chinese New Year.
For Chinese Americans, some of the new-year cultural celebrations mix.
“It’s one of the only holidays to sit back and reflect, and it’s symbolic of that accomplishment,” Han said.
One major difference in celebrations is the food.
Food is also symbolic for Chinese Americans. Shi’s family makes dumplings to eat at midnight. Han’s family eats gua cai, a vegetable dish meant to honor poor farmers in China.
Other Chinese-American food involves huge potluck dinners with previous generations of family.
“It’s my second Christmas. I have dinner with my grandparents and eat a kind of dish with chicken, beef and fish,” said senior mathematics major Long Tran.
Tran’s family incorporates all traditions in their celebrations, but in America it is always meant to be mixed.
“The festival is not just for the Chinese, but the biggest differences are you are more at home with your family on the Chinese New Year. For America’s New Year, you go downtown and celebrate with friends,” Tran said.
Whatever the difference, Chinese celebrations and American celebrations are always open to all cultures for celebration both with loved ones.
“In celebrating the Chinese New, you can gain insight into how the Chinese celebrate our traditions,” Han said.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Renee Tavera at Renee.Tavera@thecampuspress.com