The new year from a different perspective

TaLeiza Calloway

Sunday marks the Chinese New Year, which begins a seven-day long festival

The new year offers the chance to start over, make resolutions and reflect on the previous year. In Chinese culture, the new year represents something different – a time to be with family.

Similar to a long vacation, people who have gone away to work or to attend school come home for the Chinese New Year. Businesses even give bonuses in observance of the holiday, said Yang Xiang, president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and a computer science graduate student.

Xiang said people in China celebrate the new year for many days, unlike the count-down extravaganza that happens in America on New Year’s Eve. This period of celebration is referred to as the Chinese Spring Festival.

“It’s very crowded,” Xiang said. “People like the event because they get to see relatives they don’t see that often. My favorite part is the traditional Chinese food, and I can eat a lot of it.”

The Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival begins on the last day of the previous year and ends on the seventh day of the new year. This explains why the date of the new year is not on the same date every year.

As part of Chinese astrology, there is an animal for each year, which represents a personality. Horoscopes are also based on these animals. For example, as people born during a certain part of the year identify themselves as a Leo or a Virgo, in the Chinese tradition, people refer to themselves as being born during the year of the snake or the year of the dragon.

“Each year they choose an animal,” Xiang said. “There are 12 animals, and every 12 years it is a different one for the year. This is the year of the dog.”

The twelve zodiac animals are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat (or sheep), monkey, rooster, dog and pig (or boar).

In Chinese culture, the lunar calendar is used for more than determining when the new year will start and what zodiac animal will be chosen.

“This calendar is agricultural,” he said. “We follow this calendar to grow crops.”

While there are some similarities in the celebrating of the new year between American and Chinese culture, the emphasis on family sets the two apart, Xiang said.

“It’s spectacular to see so many people come back to their hometown,” he said.

Xiang remembers one new year when he and his parents traveled to see his grandparents and how big his family seemed with everyone there. What stood out to him were the gifts he received.

“I got a lot of money as gifts,” Xiang said.

This is another reason children like the Chinese Spring Festival, he said.

In 2006, the first day of the Chinese New Year is Jan. 29, said Wendy Chiang, an instructor in modern and classical language studies.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association is having a Chinese New Year celebration from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in the Student Center Ballroom.

Contact features correspondent TaLeiza Calloway at [email protected].