Chinese New Year: Happy Year of Rooster!

Chloe Yueh '17, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a 15-day festival that is considered by many the most important traditional Chinese holiday. The celebration usually starts on the eve of the New Year, which was January 27 this year (2017). Families gather together to enjoy a “reunion dinner” that usually includes dishes such as hot pot, rice cakes, and dumplings. Additionally, fish is also served in traditional dinners as an expression of blessing because the character for prosperity, yu, is a homophone of the word fish.

For children, the highlight of  New Year’s Day is receiving the red envelopes that are given by their parents and the elderly members of the family as a sign of blessing. These red envelopes contain money that is called yasuiqian, literally meaning “money to suppress the evil spirits.” People also light firecrackers and put up chunlian, handwritten poetry or blessings on red paper. These two customs originate from the tale of the mythical beast, Nian. Long ago, Nian came to the village before each lunar new year to eat the children. The villagers were deeply troubled by this, so they decided to put up red papers and set off firecrackers to frighten the beast. The tactic worked and Nian never came back to the village again. On the 15th day of the New Year, people celebrate the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. On this day, rice balls filled with black sesame seeds are served as a traditional dessert, and the children would go out at night carrying red paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns.

You may wonder why 2017 is the year of rooster. Each Chinese New Year is characterized by one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. This year is the Year of Rooster, the 10th animal in the cycle. Just like its western counterpart, certain personality traits are attributed to each of the 12 zodiacs. A person born in the Year of Rooster may be considered energetic, charismatic but also sensitive and bad-tempered.

In a broader context, the Lunar New Year is not only celebrated by the Chinese, but also in various other countries such as Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, etc. It is also widely celebrated in East Asian communities in the United States, so why not stop by a Chinese restaurant the next Chinese New Year to enjoy the festive atmosphere and a fantastic traditional meal?