Last Friday was the Chinese New Year, a time to seek luck and prosperity for the year to come.
“In China it is known as Spring Festival because in the middle part of China spring comes in February,” said Associate Professor Librarian Yan Liao.
“Spring Festival is the most festive time of the year in China. The whole last month before the New Year the equivalent to December is spent preparing for Spring Festival,” Liao said.
Liao discussed some of the traditional celebrations during the final month of the Chinese year. The underlying theme in most of them was to secure good luck for an individual and their family.
“One tradition, in preparation for Spring Festival, is on the 23rd or
24th day of the month. People will make offerings to the kitchen god. The Chinese have a god for almost everything, and most of them stay in heaven, but the kitchen god remains on earth all year long. On the 23rd or 24th day, the kitchen god reports to the Jade Emperor, the head god, if people have been good and if they deserve good fortune. The offerings are meant to bribe the kitchen god into giving good reports,” Liao said.
Liao also mentioned that the traditions for Spring Festival vary from region to region in China. She mentioned another tradition that occurred year round to bring good luck, but it depends what year a person was born.
“To a typical Chinese, your year is considered dangerous and something bad is more likely to happen. If you were born during the year of the horse, and it is the year of the horse you should wear something red at
all times for good luck. Many wear a red belt or a red string for a jade necklace,” Liao said.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student Zi Wei Thompson- Eagan recalled Chinese New Year or Spring Festival celebrations in her family.
“The thing I remember the most is putting up decorations and making dumplings, jiaozi (the Chinese name for dumplings), with my family,” Thompson-Eagan said.
Thompson-Eagan explained more traditions to foster good luck.
“Oranges and clementines are eaten because they represent gold and fortune. In China, they will also light off fire crackers because the loud noises are believed to ward off bad spirits,” Thompson-Eagan said.
She said she enjoyed Chinese New Year because it was a nice way to connect with her culture. She recommended a picture book she had grown up with titled “Celebrating Chinese New Year” by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith. The book presented a story of how the Chinese calendar was born.
It stated, “Long ago, Buddha was said to have called all of the animals on earth. Only twelve came: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the pig. As a reward, Buddha gave each animal a year in the cycle and declared that anyone born in that year would resemble the animal in some way.”
According to Hoyt-Goldsmith individuals born under the year of the horse are, “competitive, cheerful, talented, and impatient.”
“The year of the horse signifies an enterprising spirit. A greeting for this year would literally translate to ‘may you have the spirit of the dragon and the horse,’” Liao said.