The Chinese New Year opened on Thursday Feb. 19, signaling the beginning of a 12-month cycle in accordance with the lunar calendar. In China, the holiday lasts almost two weeks. Geneseo Chinese Cultural Club organized an informational meal and presentation on the history of the holiday in a general meeting, as well as a banquet of Chinese food on the weekend.
International relations major and public relations coordinator for GCCC senior William Jockers said that it was his third year celebrating Chinese New Year. “It’s kind of weird celebrating Chinese New Year and it’s not anything I’ve done before, but everyone is really welcoming,” he said.
GCCC student representative sophomore Wendy-Marie Aylward commented on how Chinese New Year is celebrated differently across the world and how the significance of the holiday is completely separated.
“When I was in China, we would go to Nanjing to visit my grandparent’s house and every night we would have a big celebration,” Aylward said. Here in America, Aylward explained that the tradition diminishes a bit, but that it is still warm and family oriented.
Along with Project Pengyou, GCCC handed out red envelopes with dollar coins in them to the student body on Thursday Feb. 19, significant of a tradition in China known as lai see or angpow.
“If you’re a kid during Chinese New Year, the elders give the kids red envelopes with money in them. The money represents you growing a year older,” Aylward said. “A Chinese New Year is like everybody’s birthday.”
With regards to the meeting, Aylward explained that many traditions were explored. “We had a presentation at our general body meeting and we talked about the story of how the animals were chosen for the zodiac,” she said. “At the end, we served congee to everybody.” Congee is a sweet dish made in China for celebrations.
The weekend after the meeting, GCCC gathered a group of 50 members and non-members to go to Grand Super Buffet in Henrietta to eat. Traditionally in China, people travel to other cities to meet with their families. “We have giant feasts every night of the holiday. Everybody comes out to say hello for the New Year,” Aylward said.
Jockers has studied abroad in China and noted that Chinese New Year is the biggest multimillion migration––over 260 million migrant workers travel around China to get back to their families. GCCC strives to emphasize a closely knit community while celebrating Chinese New Year. “Students here will go to the dinner and not be with their families,” Jockers said. “It’s why I think we didn’t do as much outreach.”
In China, it is traditional for the first night of the holiday being extremely loud. “The idea is that during Chinese New Year, you want to scare the bad stuff away, so you make a lot of music,” Aylward said. In the days preceding the New Year, Aylward explained that “fireworks are on sale by street venders all over.”
Aylward noted that she remembers setting fireworks off even as a child. “When it hits midnight on the first night of Chinese New Year, the whole city is setting off fireworks and you can’t hear anything around you.” To ward off bad spirits, there is typically a lion dance, commonly mistaken for the Chinese dragon. “Chinese lions are very elaborate, they don’t look like the lions that are depicted in Western culture,” Aylward said.
The Chinese zodiac is a way of telling time and certain animals have different personality traits. “This is the year of the sheep,” Aylward said. “When it’s your year, it’s bad luck. You’re supposed to wear red because it’s good luck.”
Jockers mentioned that during their general body meeting the first day of the Chinese New Year, an idiom was taught: “San yang kai tai.” This was in reference of the year of the sheep and wishing for “a good year to come.”