Chinese New Year in the U.S.

One of the things that disappointed me most about studying abroad fall semester father than spring was the fact that I did not get to experience the lunar New Year in China. However, I did get to do the second best thing, which was attend the Chinese New Year celebration with the Chinese Language Club. First of all, let me apologize for being so late. Chinese New Year was 3 months ago or something, but I haven’t had time to write about it.

Before the celebration, some of went to our teacher’s house to help her make jiaozi (dumplings) to serve at the celebration. I’ve made jiaozi before, but it is always a fun activity. Particularly when incredible Chinese teachers who have backyard chickens are involved. This year, we also made some fun jiaozi that looked like bai cai (I think that’s bok choy?) by rolling together plain dough and dough that was colored green with crushed up spinach. Even though I didn’t get to spend the Spring Festival in China, I still got a little bit of taste of how much work Chinese families put into preparing meals for it. Our teacher had already made the dough and filling when we arrived, as well as prepared several other dishes, and we were there for several hours just wrapping the jiaozi.

The actual celebration went really well. Everyone loved the jiaozi (how could they not?), and there was a lot of Chinese candy. There were games like Chinese chess and Majiang, which nobody knew how to play. Apparently, all the people in Chinese Language Club who know how to play Majiang graduated last year. There was also a presentation on the history and mythology behind Chinese New Year. Even though I’ve gone through countless Chinese class presentations on Chinese New Year, I still didn’t know all of the stories that were talked about. Just about everything that Chinese people do on the New Year has meaning behind it. For example, fireworks and the color red are so popular due to a legend involving a demon/dragon creature named Nian. (Nian also means year). On the first day of the year, Nian would attack the villages, eating any crops, livestock, and people who remained outside. The villagers lived in fear, until they learned that Nian feared bright colors and loud noises. To this day, people wear red, set off fireworks, and celebrate loudly to ward off Nian. Chinese New Year is also a time for a lot of interesting Chinese puns. People eat fish for the New Year, because “Year after year have fish” sounds like “Year after year have excess” in Chinese (nian nian you yu). People will also hang signs with the Chinese word for luck (fu) upside down on their doors, because the word for “upside down” sounds the same as the word for “to arrive”, so “luck upside down” (fu dao le) sounds like “luck has arrived” (also fu dao le). There are a lot more interesting Chinese New Year customs that I don’t have time to talk about at the moment, but perhaps another Chinese New Year post can happen next year.

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