While Americans traditionally celebrate a “new year” every Jan. 1, the New Year’s celebration varies greatly in other parts of the world. With four of McNicholas’ foreign exchange students coming from China, seniors Zhihao “Rex” Cao and Yaling Wu, junior Hanye Li, and sophomore Shuohua “Sam” Zou, the McNicholas Milestone decided to research the Chinese New Year.
As stated on the Education2 website, the Chinese New Year falls on a different day every year, due to a combination of solar and lunar patterns. This day usually falls in January or February, and technically ends 15 days later with the Lantern Festival.
However, a typical Chinese family focuses on celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Although much more family-oriented, many of the traditions are similar to American culture.
“In China, there is a TV program that lots of people watch on New Year’s Eve,” sophomore foreign exchange student Sam Zou said. “The name doesn’t have an exact translation, but it is very similar to the American coverage of Times Square and helps bring in the New Year. We also celebrate with lots of lights and fireworks.”
There are also some additional aspects that differ from an American New Year’s. As the Infoplease site explains, New Year’s is a revered and important holiday for Chinese families. There is a much bigger emphasis on family values and time together. Students are typically given around a week off school to celebrate with relatives, similar to our Christmas break.
The background legend involves the Chinese zodiac animals. Every new year is marked with one of twelve animals, each with unique characteristics that are meant to foreshadow the year’s events. In addition, these twelve animals are the Chinese version of horoscopes, and everyone falls under one of the twelve signs depending on their birthday. The year of 2012 is the year of the water dragon, so people born in a dragon year are supposedly going to have a year of destiny and decision. Because these animals are used so much in Chinese tradtion, they are often incorporated into the country’s festivals and decorations.
While Zou won’t be in his hometown to celebrate the Chinese New Year, he still plans to celebrate the event with his host family with a big meal at a Chinese buffet.