Celebrating Chinese New Year With Your Student
Gung Hay Fat Choy! Welcome to the Year of the Dog!
It’s time to get ready to celebrate in a huge way. Chinese New Year is the most important holiday for many in the Asian culture. This year it will be on Friday, February 16th. The Chinese New Year Festival is believed to have originally started during the Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 BC) mainly out of fear. Many stories explaining why are passed down from generation to generation but a favorite always remains: an evil, mythical monster named Nian would prey upon the people of China. To console his people, a wise old man told the villagers that Nian was afraid of the color red and loud noises. The people began making loud noises, shot off firecrackers, and hung red decorations in front of their doors. Eventually Nian stopped coming to the villages and was believed to have finally been conquered. This anniversary date is known as the “passing of Nian” or “to pass over the year.” The Chinese consider this sacred anniversary day as one that brought new life; free from Nian.
For normal business and daily planning, the Chinese follow the Gregorian calendar (the international calendar used by the world today), but for planning festivals and holidays, the Chinese calendar is used. According to the legend of Buddha 12 animals came to help guard and protect the year; so to show gratitude towards these animals each one was given a year on the Chinese calendar. The animal signs on the zodiac chart repeat every 12 years. 2018 celebrates the Year of the Dog.
Today, Chinese New Year continues with its long-standing traditions and celebrations as the most economical and social holiday to the Asian world. Money is given out in special red envelopes as gifts during this time. It is a time of visiting with family and friends, planning activities, and eating delicious homemade goodies.
Celebrating in Style!
You’ve got plenty of time to enjoy the fun; start planning now! Here are some great ideas that you, your family, and host student can do to enjoy this special time of year.
Sightseeing, Food Tasting, and Shopping
USA Today has a list of America’s Top 10 Chinatowns. Live near San Francisco? New York City? Honolulu? Yep, these three cities made the top 10 list! If your city isn’t represented in the top 10 list, that’s ok; just look for an area in your state that has a high Asian population. Visit shops to see what is being planned for the holiday. Purchase decorations, gifts, and food. Some states have a “Chinatown” where you can spend the day visiting shops and eating traditional foods.
Parades are a way to celebrate the New Year. Plan one of your own with other host students and their families. Check out websites on how to create dragon costumes, lanterns, flags, drums, etc… You can even parade around the neighborhood to share this celebration with other cultures! In fact, why not hold a neighborhood potluck and invite friends and host families to celebrate in style?
If fireworks are legal in your city, why not consider planning a fun night of fireworks and snacks and invite the neighborhood? Just make sure you follow all safety precautions, we don’t want anyone getting hurt while celebrating!
Let’s Get Crafty!
Head on over to your local craft store and pick up red paper. The color red is very symbolic in the Chinese culture, so make sure you load up on red paper and decorations! Cut out lanterns, dragons, and other characters and hang them around the house. Your host student will know you care when they start seeing something around the house that makes them feel at home.
Gift giving is very popular, however there are some basic rules to follow. The premise behind gift giving is about passing on good luck and good wishes for the New Year. Paying attention to color is important. Black, blue, and white are no-no’s; they are associated with death and funerals. Stick to gold, yellow, and red. These colors symbolize wealth and prosperity. Giving money? Avoid any amount with the number four – another sign of death. Even numbers are a safe bet, however the number eight is ideal. It is said the number eight brings good luck.
Looking for ideas of special food to serve during Chinese New Year? Look no further, because we’ve got you covered. Don’t forget to head on over to our Cooking Corner article this month for more ideas on serving special foods; we even included a menu for you!
- Tangerines and oranges bring luck and wealth. Keep the leaves attached as they are a sign of longevity.
- Preserved fruits such as coconuts (togetherness), kumquats (prosperity) and red melon seeds (happiness) set out in a tray are appealing to the eye. If you have a tray with eight compartments, even better!
- Serve long noodles for a long life.
- Jai, a vegetarian dish pays homage to the Buddhist culture by cleansing oneself with vegetables. Pack this dish with sea moss, lotus seeds, and black mushrooms for good luck.
- Whole fish served with the head and tail. This will give you a fresh start and keep you from bad luck.
- Sweet and sour pork to keep you well fed.
- Don’t forget the rice! Fried, white, and sticky rice are a staple for every meal.
No matter what you plan, plan something to help your host student feel right at home. This is a big time for them; family and traditions will surely be missed while living in a different country. Have fun and bring the New Year to your home in a special way.
- Time and Date: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/common/chinese-new-year
- The Culture Trip: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/china/articles/chinese-new-year-meaning-history-and-traditions/
- Thoughtco: https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-chinese-new-year-687496
- History: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/chinese-new-year
- China Highlights: https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/festivals/chinese-new-year-in-northern-and-southern-china.htm
- USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2014/03/08/chinatown-chinese-asian-food/6173601/
- Chowhound: https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/54874/14-good-luck-foods-for-chinese-new-year