Happy Year of the Rooster!
By Betty Dai, president Chinese Association at Argonne
Chinese New Year is Jan. 28, 2017, ushering in the Year of the Rooster. The new year begins on the first day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. It usually falls between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, making this new year an early one. I enjoy the early arrival of this spring festival and the rooster’s earnest effort to break the day by crowing at dawn.
Lunar New Year also is celebrated in Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and many other countries worldwide.
In China, the new year comes alive with rich traditional celebrations and activities. Home and family are the focus of all. Traditional preparations include thoroughly cleaning and decorating the house (大扫除); preparing new clothing purchased or private-tailored for every family member (做新衣); and shopping for and preparing holiday food (购年货).
Food is an important and symbolic part of new year celebrations. On New Year’s Eve family reunion dinners feature tables full of dishes from soups to desserts and dumplings, with many dishes symbolizing good luck (大团圆). These family gatherings often include watching national and regional celebration programs, especially the CCTV Gala, until firecrackers go off for loud celebrations at midnight (看春晚).
The first day of the new year is the time to visit with seniors. In-laws are visited on the second day, and other relatives and friends on the third day (拜新年). Young and old often are given red envelopes containing lucky money in cash. The color red signifies luck, celebration, vitality and happiness.
Although the national holiday ends after seven days, the traditional end of the new year occurs with the Lantern Festival 15 days into the new year on the night of the full moon.
In China, these holiday traditions have adapted to today’s fast-paced world. More than ever, people are traveling to get home because they work so far away, or they travel away from home to take advantage of a week-long holiday break.
Convenience and relaxation from work take precedence over the traditional schedule of celebrations. Families have restaurant banquets rather than preparing homemade food; young people spend more time with friends to celebrate with their extended families; people greet each other on smart devices rather than visiting in person. The red envelope also has been digitized. The envelope is sent electronically with money automatically transferred between accounts.
Whether we celebrate in ways old or new, one concept stays constant: “Goodbye Old Year; Welcome New Year!” The new year means hope, a new start. On behalf of the Chinese Association at Argonne (CAA), I wish you and your families, and the entire Argonne community, a healthy and prosperous new year!