Dumplings, family, tradition: celebrating Chinese New Year

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Even though the Chinese New Year and U.S. New Year land on different days, there are many similarities in how both cultures celebrate flipping the calendar.

The Chinese New Year begins Feb. 16, which is the first day of a new lunar calendar year.

From food to superstitions, the celebration is one of the most anticipated events of the entire year in Chinese culture, Cheng Zhang president of the Brookings Chinese Community (BCC) said.

Zhang said it is the most celebrated festival in China and other East Asian countries like Korea and Vietnam.

“Schools and factories are closed for about one month for students and workers to go home for a reunion with family,” Zhang said.

However, many people can’t make it home for the holiday season, so celebrations happen everywhere, including here in Brookings.

This past Saturday, BCC hosted a Chinese New Year party at Gracepoint Wesleyan Church. The night was filled with poem recitals, dancing, singing, piano, games and food.

The New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important part of the holiday for families. Typically, they spend months preparing food and preserving it until the new year, said Zhang.

“[The dinner] brings every family member together for a full-course meal, which could easily have over 20 dishes,” he said.

In Brookings, the Chinese Student Scholars Association (CSSA) works with the BCC to prepare the staple Chinese New Year food: dumplings.

“Even back home in China we would always have dumplings, so it is nice to have them here as well when we are in America; it’s part of a tradition,” said Qing Jin, a junior chemistry major.

Volunteers start making the dumplings, which are typically filled with ground meat or vegetables, hours before the party starts.

But dumplings aren’t the only food available to eat at the party. Every family brings a dish or two to share, so by the end of the night there are more than 30 options to choose from.

Another tradition in the Chinese New Year is using zodiac signs to represent each year with an animal.
This began from an old Chinese myth passed down through generations, and this year the animal is a dog.

According to the website, “Chinese New Year 2018,” many people believe individuals who are born during this year will portray qualities of a dog, such as loyalty, hard work and occasional stubbornness.

However, there are also many people who don’t buy into the superstitions.

Siyi Liu, sophomore computer science major, said she doesn’t usually believe in zodiac signs and their meanings.

“I just use the New Year celebrations as a time to be with family and friends,” she said.

So, whether it’s the food, friends or leaving the fate of the new year up to the stars, the Chinese New Year celebration has something for everyone.

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