新年快乐! Xīn Nián Kuài Lè!
Welcome to the Year of the Ox! In the Chinese zodiac, the Ox represents strength and determination and these are the themes for 2021. The Chinese New Year – also known as the Lunar New Year and more commonly called the Spring Festival – is not only celebrated in China, but also numerous countries in East and Southeast Asia, as well as parts of the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia. It’s a worldwide celebration!
The Spring Festival – 春节, Chūn Jié – is celebrated for over two weeks in China but the new year date is February 12th. During the celebrations, family and friends make delicious food, elders give money to their grandchildren in red envelopes, decorations are put up, fireworks and firecrackers go off, and superstitions are observed (Xi). Regarding superstitions, observers are not to use negative words, are not to clean or sweep during the festival (they clean leading up to the celebration), must avoid fighting and crying, among other things (Ho).
The origins of the Spring Festival is rooted in a magical and exciting mythological story. The story discusses an ancient monster named “Nián (年)” (which also means “year”) who would attack villagers on new year’s eve and would send them running into their homes for safety. On one of these nights, a beggar came into town looking for safety and an elderly woman hid him in her house. He decorated the doors of the house with red paper and when the monster, Nián, showed up, the man set off firecrackers to scare Nián away. Until this day, celebrators continue to decorate their homes and towns with red and set off firecrackers (Xi).
One of the most important parts of the Spring Festival is to spend time with family, look forward to new beginnings, and eats lots of food which have symbolic meanings. According to Zhaojin Zeng, an East Asian history professor at the University of Pittsburgh, whole fish represents prosperity, dumplings represent wealth, and noodles represent longevity (Jensen).
Regarding Californian celebrations, San Francisco has been hosting Chinese New Year parades for 162 years and Fresno has been hosting parades for nearly 20 years. Though they might be canceled for this year, there are ways to celebrate at home such as making paper lanterns, trying to prepare some festival dishes, spending quality time with your household, and breaking-out the red decorations. Do you celebrate the Spring Festival? Do you know someone who does? We have already celebrated the Western New Year, so use February 12th to take the time to appreciate how hundreds of millions of people throughout the world and in our nation celebrate this holiday of new beginnings.
Why are animals assigned to years? Well, it all goes back to the Great Race!
More fun facts about the Chinese New Year
Ho, Fefe. “Chinese New Year Taboos.” Chinese New Year, 2020. https://chinesenewyear.net/taboos/
Jensen, Erin. “Chinese New Year: What does the year of the rat symbolize and more questions answered.” USA Today, 24 Jan. 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2020/01/24/chinese-new-year-questions-answered/4552531002/
Xi, Amanda. “21 Things You Didn’t Know About Chinese New Year.” Chinese New Year, 2020. https://chinesenewyear.net/21-things-you-didnt-know-about-chinese-new-year/
Xi, Amanda. “Chinese New Year Myths.” Chinese New Year, 2020. https://chinesenewyear.net/myths/