Chinese prepare to celebrate new year

Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 22, 2001

While Americans spent the last half of December in preparation for the upcoming new year, the Chinese have only begun. Starting Wednesday, many Chinese will take three days off to celebrate their new year.

"In China, people congratulate themselves on the New Year," Chinese studies Prof. David Rolston said. "Traditionally, there is a creature called the Nian that eats people. If you manage to escape it and make it to the new year, you deserve to be congratulated."

This year, the Chinese New Year falls on Jan. 24, according to the Western calendar. According to the Chinese, it is the beginning of the year 4699, not 2001.

The date of the Chinese New Year varies every year because the Chinese follow a lunar calendar, unlike the Western calendar. New Year"s Day is always the day of the new moon.

Last year the Chinese New Year fell on Feb. 5th.

Traditionally, New Year"s festivities lasted 15 days, with an emphasis on family and friends. Fireworks, which are believed to scare away evil influences, are also a big part of the New Year"s celebrations.

"It was a process of going to visit other people and paying their respects," Rolston said.

Other Chinese traditions include buying ceremonial door gods and a kitchen god. Door gods are draped over the external doors of people"s homes to protect them kitchen gods act like spies on the household. The Chinese put honey on the lips of the kitchen god so they can only say sweet things about the household, Rolston said. Kitchen gods are later burned to signify their departure and return to heaven. Money is also burned for traveling expenses.

Students in Ann Arbor might not be able to participate in all of the traditional Chinese celebrations, but they still celebrate the New Year.

The Main Street Area Association is holding its 9th annual Chinese New Year celebration Saturday. The celebration starts at 1 p.m. at Champion House Restaurant on Liberty Streets, when a large, traditional Chinese dragon will walk down Fourth Avenue and Main, Liberty and Washington streets, blessing stores as it goes by. It also features calligraphy artists and paper cutting demonstrations.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association is hosting a celebration party on Sunday in the Michigan League. The festivities include a fashion show, a Peking opera, a dance party, Chinese movies and a video of the New Year"s Eve festivities that will happen tomorrow in China.

"This is the biggest holiday in China and every family will buy something to celebrate the coming new year. They will dress in new clothes and eat the best food. The kids like it because they get money from parents," said CSSA President Weiguo Zhang, a University graduate student.

Unlike Western astrology, which is based on 30-day intervals, the Chinese zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle of 12 different animals. The incoming Chinese year is the Year of the White Snake. The snake comes from an ancient Chinese tragic love story between a man and "Lady White," which originated around A.D. 618. Last year was the Year of the Dragon.

According to the zodiac, the Year of the Snake is a year of preparation for potential hardships and difficulties. To overcome hardships, it"s important to remain close to friends and family and keep focused on goals, the Chinese zodiac says.

Many students said they won"t make any predictions about the upcoming year.

"I have no idea what to expect," Zhang said.