What Chinese People Really Do on New Year’s

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The Chinese New Year, its traditions and celebrations are likely a mystery to most Americans. Other than the fact that dragons are sometimes involved and celebrations are spread over several days, what do any of us really know about it?

Kylie Hood, a junior from Collegeville, Pa., majoring in political science, is half Chinese — her grandparents are from Xi’an and Nanking, China. According to Hood, even with her Chinese background, she knows little about the holiday and its surrounding fesitivities.

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Traditionally, red envelopes are given to young unmarried people from elderly couples sometime during the 15-day celebration of the New Year.
“My family never really celebrated Chinese New Year,” she said. “Every year my grandparents would send us the traditional red envelopes with money in them, but that’s really as far as my knowledge of the new year goes.”

Traditionally, red envelopes are given to young unmarried people from elderly couples sometime during the 15-day celebration. The envelopes generally contain money,  ranging anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred. According to Yuan Lai, a junior from Xi’an, China, studying accounting, receiving envelopes is his favorite part of the new year.

“We get money from our parents and relatives and it always comes in red envelopes,” he said. “The best part was that we couldn’t open the envelope early to see the money in it, we had to wait until midnight on the hour of the first day to open them.”

Lai also said the festivities and celebrations surrounding the new year are centered on family and togetherness. It is for this reason, he said, that China natives, especially BYU students, generally don’t hold large celebrations.

“Everyone always gets together as families and eats together,” he said. “I definitely like the Chinese New Year better than the American New Year because it’s more fun and it’s more about family … Even though we’re far away from our families, we’re always going to want to go back to them.”

Specific New Year traditions vary widely depending on the region of China, but according to Bifei Lin, a senior from  Xi’an, China, majoring in accounting, the majority of the country watches New Year’s TV programs on China Central Television, culminating in the lighting of fireworks at midnight.

This year, Lin and her friends celebrated the new year by watching the CCTV programs on the Internet and eating dumplings and “lots of Chinese food.”

When the holiday rolls around again in 2013, be sure to celebrate properly by having your parents send you a  red envelope with some money in it. Tell them that all the cool Chinese kids are doing it, and that you need to do it, too.

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