April 19, 2014

Ring in the Chinese New Year on Eastern Michigan's campus

by Debra Johnson, Published February 06, 2013

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YPSILANTI - A week of festivities is planned on Eastern Michigan University's campus to celebrate the Chinese New Year including a paper cutting workshop, a celebratory dinner, Kung Fu lessons, and a cooking class on how to make traditional Chinese dumplings.

The Chinese New Year is the longest and most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is also known as the "Spring Festival" or often referred to as the "Lunar New Year." Celebrations begin on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, and end with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month. This year, the holiday begins Feb. 10th and it is the year of the snake.

"I am frequently called upon to answer questions about the Chinese language and culture, particularly during the Chinese New Year holiday season and often think of what Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve means to Americans," said Wendy Wang, professor of English as a Second Language, in the department of world languages at Eastern.

"If you put the two U.S. holidays together  - you get close to what Chinese New Year means to a quarter of the world's population who celebrate it, not to mention an increasing number of people who embrace it as they learn about Chinese language and culture. It is truly a special time of year for getting together with family and friends."

The following are the events planned on Eastern's campus for the 2013 Chinese New Year:

  • Learn how to make decorations using the traditional Chinese method of paper cutting during a workshop on Friday, Feb. 8, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 330 in the Student Center. Chinese paper cutting or jianzhi, is the first type of paper cutting. The cutouts are used to decorate doors and windows, and other areas of the home, and are also used on presents or are given as gifts. Entrances adorned with paper cutouts are supposed to bring good luck.
  • On Sunday, Feb. 10, a dinner will be served to celebrate the New Year from 4 - 7:30 p.m. at Bob's Lake House, located behind the Student Center. During the event, a traditional Chinese meal will be served and attendees will be entertained with a Chinese instrumental recital performed by students from the University of Michigan. Admission is free and donations are welcome.
  • Anyone interested in fitness, martial arts or traditional Chinese culture might like to learn Kung Fu during a 2-hour class taught by Mario Aguirre, a lecturer at Eastern and an expert in martial arts and Kung Fu, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 3 - 5 p.m. in Room 212, in the REC/IM. Aguirre will lead the class in traditional Shaolin Temple boxing. Attendees should be dressed appropriately and be prepared to workout and have fun.
  • Learn how to make authentic Chinese dumplings from scratch during a cooking class on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 4 - 7 p.m. in the ground level of Snow Health Center. Participants will make and enjoy a traditional Chinese dumpling dinner.

The Chinese New Year is centuries old and surrounded in myths and traditions. According to legend, it started with a fight against a mythical beast called the Nian who would come and eat livestock, crops, and villagers. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was also thought that Nian was afraid of the color red, so red lanterns and red spring scrolls would be hung on windows and doors to thwart off the beast.

Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely. Some people will buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. It is also tradition to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away ill fortune and make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors are decorated with red colored paper cutouts, and on the Eve of holiday, a feast is shared with family. The night ends with firecrackers.

Early the next morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness to everyone.

The celebration of the Chinese New Year is co-sponsored by MeiHua (American Chinese) Student Association, Department of World Languages, and the CAS Office of International Initiatives. For questions or additional information, contact Wendy Wang at 487-0130 or email at wwang@emich.edu.

Debra Johnson

djohn144@emich.edu

734.487.4400

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