2012: Year of the Dragon

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Xin Nian Kuai Le! And Happy Year of the Dragon!

With the end of the first month of 2012 drawing to a close, many students have let a few of those New Year’s resolutions slip a little bit. For those that need a second chance at 2012, this week is the time — It’s Chinese New Year!

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is a culturally rich holiday that dates back as far as 2,000 B.C.

2012 is the year of the dragon, and according to the Chinese Zodiac it should be a lucky year.

Unlike the Western calendar, which is based on the rotation of the earth around the sun, the Chinese year is based on the lunar calendar determined by the phases of the moon’s cycle.

While the Western zodiac we are familiar with has a different animal for each month, the Chinese zodiac has a different animal for each year. For any that want to become an expert on it, just go to the nearest Chinese restaurant and look at the place mat while the beef and broccoli are cooking.

For the Chinese, the Spring Festival is comparable to the western holidays of Christmas and Thanksgiving, in that it is the most important family holiday of the year, except instead of Santa and turkeys, they have dragons and fireworks. The best part is that it lasts 15 days.

Professor Julie Lefgren, who teaches Chinese and is involved with BYU’s Chinese club, said in an email, “The best part of Chinese new year is the tradition that everyone goes home to be with family.”

For a week, the whole nation stops to take work off and go home to visit family and sometimes even go to the villages of their ancestors to celebrate.

Andy Paulos, the co-founder and president of BYU’s Chinese club, said the nation shuts down for the holiday.

“I wish we had it here in the states,” he said. “Everyone’s together. It’s a great celebration.”

The Chinese now look forward to this festival every year, but it originated out of fear of a monster named Nian, who would come out of the mountains every year and eat children.

The Chinese decorate with bright colors and red over their doors, which is supposed to protect their children and scare off Nian. These “door postings” as they are called are to stay up for the entire year. Then they set off fireworks to finish the job.

Paulos said the fireworks are his favorite part of the holiday and they are set off for two days straight, all day and all night.

The Chinese also exchange gifts, but not in wrapping and bows. Rather, they exchange red envelopes with money inside.

Seth Black, a junior in chemical engineering from Hesperia, Calif., served his mission in Taiwan, where they also celebrate Chinese New Year.

Black said the envelope is called a “hungbao” and instead of mutual giving, the envelopes are usually given to people that are younger.

Parents or elderly people give the envelopes to children, and bosses will even sometimes give hungbaos to employees.

Black said at the time the envelopes are to be given, the Chinese say “Gongxi facai hongbao na lai,” which essentially means “Congratulations, increase your prosperity, give me my red envelope.”

Both Paulos and Black said one of the best parts of the holiday is the food. All the meals, aside from being tasty, are symbolic. Fish symbolizes prosperity and long noodles symbolize long life, so it’s important to slurp up the whole noodle without letting it break.

Last Thursday, the Chinese Flagship Center at BYU celebrated the New Year in the Wilkinson Center, complete with food, dancing and dragons.

For those that missed it, the best part is the holiday is not over. The Chinese Club will celebrate on Feb. 3, for those that join the club. To join, go to www.groupspaces.com/byuchineseclub for more information.

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