By Jake Culian
Well it’s that time of year again! Yep it’s New Years! But wait you say, didn’t New Year’s happen at the beginning of the year on January 1st? Well yes it did but this is the Chinese New Year. And for China the New Year isn’t just a one day event either. This year the New Year celebration begins on February 19th and goes until March 5th. This celebration is one of the biggest celebrations in China and is full of performances, fireworks and family gatherings.
Chinese New year is a truly enormous production in the major cities of China, but everyplace will have a celebration of some kind during the festival. Every year the transportation systems are full to bursting as millions of people try to get home for the holidays. And once the holiday really does start the firework usage is enormous. Fireworks are believed to scare off evil spirts who bring bad luck and thus make sure that a person starts the year off right. With low restrictions on who can purchase fireworks and where they can be used, cities like Beijing and Shanghai report picking up thousands of pounds of left over firework debris after every day of New Year celebration.
Every year in the Chinese calendar is attached to a different animal in 12 year cycles. This year is year of the Ram and last year was year of the Horse. Each of the animals is said to indicate something about people born in that year. For example people who were born in a Ram year are supposed to be thoughtful, persevering and honest among other qualities. In addition to giving details about their personality they are seen in much the same way that people from the west use their astrological sign.
Tonight I attended the Chinese Student Unions Chinese New Year party in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom with about 500 other students, professors, and locals. We spent the first hour watching videos of people wishing everyone a happy new year. After that though the real show started. First there was a traditional Lion Dance followed by a dance to Xiao Ping Guo, or little apple. Then the local Confucius Institute had many people come in to do singing. http://www.pdx.edu/confucius-institute/ My personal favorite though was a really cool Tai Qi performance.
In addition to the performances all Portland States got in free and could get a Chinese meal. They also had a raffle full of fun prizes which everyone there was eligible for. All in all it was a really fun way to spend my Friday evening and it made all the MIM students were excited about putting on our own Chinese New Year event next week.