Cultural celebrations mark Chinese New Year

The aroma of sesame fried chicken filled the air. Hundreds of people swamped the area, eating food while enjoying the entertainment.

After watching beautiful dances, listening to sweet voices sing and watching in awe at a sword dance, finally the moment that everyone was waiting for came on: the dragon dance.

People enthusiastically applauded and cheered on as the dragon danced around. This festive event was a celebration of the Chinese New Year that took place February 13th in Chamblee, Ga.

As the most important of all the Chinese festivals, the Chinese New Year was on Jan. 29 this year. The date of the Chinese New Year is determined from the lunisolar calendar, whose dates depend on moon phase and the time of solar year, and, thus, the Chinese New Year does not fall on the same day each year on the Gregorian calendar.

For the Chinese, the New Year represents a new beginning. They believe that what happens on the New Year will correspond to what happens for the rest of the year. Therefore, people eat healthy food, invite friends over, and pray to bring about good fortune for the following year.

They wear red clothes, put up red decorations and give money to children in red envelopes. The Chinese New Year is often considered a religious ceremony as people commemorate Heaven, Earth, their ancestors and household gods on the multi-day festival.

Traditionally, the Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days.

On the first day, the Chinese worship and welcome the gods.

The second day the Chinese pray to their ancestors while the third and fourth days are reserved for men to pay respect to their parents-in-law. The fifth day is called Poo Woo and the Chinese pray to the god of wealth.

From the sixth to the tenth day, the Chinese celebrate by visiting friends and family as well as temples to pray.

The seventh day is considered the day that humans came into existence. Farmers present their produce and make a special drink made out of seven vegetables.

There is another family reunion on the eighth day and offerings are made to the Jade Emperor on the ninth day.

Between the 10th and 14th days, people invite friends and family over. Finally, the 15th day is when Lantern Festival occurs. On this day, people go to temples at night with paper lanterns and solve riddles written on the lanterns.

The dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve is one of the most important meals prepared. Traditional foods include eight treasures rice, chicken, duck, fish, pork and “Jiu Niang Tang.”

Eight treasures rice is typically made out of rice, nuts and dried fruit. “Jiu Niang Tang” is a sweet soup made out of wine that contains rice balls.

The Chinese New Year began as a myth. The Chinese believed that Nian, a beast, preyed on humanity the night before the New Year. However, a wise old man placated the people by challenging the beast to prey upon other animals.

Afterwards, the man was revealed to be a god. He took control of Nian and vanished while riding on the beast.

But before he left, he advised the people to put up red decorations and create loud noises to scare the beast away in case Nian ever came back. The tradition of putting up red paper and firing fire crackers still continue today as the Chinese celebrate the conquest of Nian.

Twelve animals in the following order represent the lunar Chinese calendar: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

According to legend, the 12 animals fought over who would head the succession of years. The gods finally came up with a contest to end the argument.

They said that each of the animals were to cross the river and whoever was to reach the other side first would start the cycle of the years, and the rest of the animals would get their years in order of who reached the shore.

The rat was able to reach shore first by riding on the ox’s back and the pig ended up last.

Conceptually, the twelve animals represent a cycle as opposed to the Western linear concept of time. This year represents the year of the ox.

The ox represents success that can be achieved with hard work and determination.

As this is an important time for the Chinese, many Tech students described what they did for the Chinese New Year.

“I called my grandparents because during New Year’s, you are supposed to pay respect to your elders.

“This act of goodness is supposed to bring happiness and prosperity in the following year,” said Christina Dwan, second year BME major.

“I called my grandma. I also went to a fair over the weekend for Chinese New Year at the Chinese Cultural Center. I ate moon cake and watched the traditional dragon dance,” said Tony Chu, third year IE major.

In addition, Tech’s Chinese Student Association (CSA) held a Chinese New Year event in the Student Success Center. Over 200 members showed up including CSA members, non-members and language professors.

The CSA held performances, food, games and handed out red envelopes with chocolate coins which is tradition in China.

Performances include Wushu, a Chinese dance and Muay Thai demo. Furthermore, a full Chinese dinner was prepared including roasted pork, lo mein and chicken.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the ox holds great strength and will. As the year of the ox, it is a year of hard work and effort. But then again, this statement holds true every year for every Tech student.