A Pair of Oranges, Lion Dances, and a Sea of Red

From the vibrant decorations, feasting on moon cakes and dumplings, setting off firecrackers, and exchanging hong bao, it is clear that Chinese New Year — one of the most celebrated festivals for the Chinese — is upon us.  While our SAS holiday has come and gone, commemoration elsewhere is ongoing and signs of the celebration are still on display all across the region.  But what exactly is the Chinese New Year?

Not only is Lunar New Year the most significant holiday in mainland China, it is also celebrated worldwide- ranging from Singapore, Philippines, Korea, Japan, England and the United States.  Are you new to the region or simply wondering what all the fuss is about? Eye reporter Jenny Kim and filmmaker MiL Le Jang answer some of your questions and explore the event’s representation here on the SAS campus:

Q: So, what is Chinese New Year?

A: Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the biggest festival to celebrate the turn of the lunisolar Chinese calendar. This year, on the 28th of January, the beginning on the second new moon after the winter solstice, the Chinese will gather with families and friends to celebrate the new rooster year. This festival is bound to end on February 2nd, the day the full moon rises fifteen days later.

Q: What is the Spring Festival Travel Season? 

A: Despite where they are, most of the Chinese travel across the world to return home to spend Chinese New Year with their families and friends. Therefore, 春元 (Chūn Yuán —also known as the journey taken to celebrate Chinese New Year) is one of the largest human migrations across the globe. According to China’s largest online agency‘s newly released “2017 Spring Festival Tourism Big Data Report,” it is most likely that this year’s movement craze will be the “hottest ever” and is expected to surpass last year’s total of 6 million travelers.

Q: What is the celebration/tradition behind Chinese New Year? 

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Decoration representing “good fortune”

A: In the beginning of the Golden Week, the seven-day national holiday, the Chinese cleans their house to sweep away the bad luck or misfortune. They also decorate the windows and doors by pasting red color couplets with popular themes of “good fortune”, “wealth”, “longevity” and “happiness.”

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Lion dance held at SAS

On the eve of Chinese New Year, the Chinese usually celebrates by watching the famed lion dance to oust bad spirits.  This is followed by a festive reunion dinner (also known as “年夜饭” or Nian Ye Fan) and staying up until midnight while watching CCTV’s New Year’s Gala Program. The New Year’s Gala Program is one of the most watched television programs in the world, with 800 million viewers tuning in for the 2014 rendition. The program features many famous celebrities such as Zhang Yi Xing and Jackie Chan. It is composed of musical numbers, dances, comedy shows and dramatic presentations.  The next day, they set off firecrackers to signal the end of the last year and the beginning of the next. Family elders and married couples give Hong Bao (Lucky Money) and written wishes to the children and younger members of the family.

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New Year’s Gala Program

Q: So how do SAS students celebrate?

A: This depends on cultural background. Some see it as a holiday, but others with deep rooted heritage in Asia might celebrate it. Senior Kathryn Wilson, who is half American and half Chinese said, “We went over to my mom’s relatives. We “拜年” (Bai Nian) which is wishing everyone a happy new year. Also, we gave two oranges to elders, which represents “副” (Fu) , luck. I received “红包” (hong bao), pocket money. We also talked and played games with relatives, and ate home cooked food. The most interesting part was mixing and throwing the “Lou Hei,” a salad with many ingredients that each represent various things, such as wealth. It is supposed to bring luck for the new year. Also, the higher you toss, the longer your life will be!

2017, the year of the Rooster, is celebrated by millions of people worldwide with fireworks, hong bao, and reunions. We hope that the year of the Rooster will bring much fortune and happiness to all of our readers.

 

Author: Jenny Kim

Jenny Kim is a senior, and this is her second year as a reporter of the Eye. She was born in Korea, but she came to Singapore at the age of nine. She enjoys playing tennis/golf, listening to music, hanging out with friends and family during her free time. She can be contacted at kim33424@sas.edu.sg.

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