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Celebrating the Lunar New Year at Home and Abroad: China

By January 6, 2020January 26th, 2022Connections, Cross-Cultural Committee
Issaquah Highlands Chinese New Year

What is Chinese New Year?
Chinese Lunar New Year is the most important festival in China, and in surrounding Asian nations. It is not a fixed date on our normal calendar. Most of the time it takes place in February, sometimes in late January. The legal paid holiday period usually is seven days in urban areas, while the traditional celebration lasts for 15 days.

The date of Chinese New Year is regarded as the arrival of the spring, the start of a new cycle of seasons. In Chinese tradition, each year has its own guarding animal (2020’s guarding animal is the rat). It is also a time to pray for good fortune in the coming new year. Symbolic elements representing blooming life are revered, like wearing red clothes, pasting the ‘luck’ poster on your front door, and loud fireworks.

How do people traditionally celebrate?
The big family pattern used to be quite popular in China and it was normal to live with grandparents, even great-grandparents. As China becomes more westernized, young couples are no longer willing to live with their parents, so the Chinese New Year turns out to be the most important date for family reunions and friends visiting. It is like an annual ceremony for family members, sitting together, having dinner, and watching the annual Spring Festival show on TV.

Like turkey is to Thanksgiving, dumplings are the traditional food for Chinese New Year. The homemade dumpling is regarded as the best and most admired food to serve visiting guests.

How are Chinese New Year traditions changing?
With WeChat (an app like Facebook), the traditional New Year’s gift of money in red paper envelopes is being replaced by the “e-red envelope” (digital cash gift) among young people. But older generations still stick to the traditional way of giving their grandchildren red paper envelopes with a large amounts of cash inside.

How does your family celebrate Chinese New Year in Issaquah Highlands?
Before we moved to United States, we gathered with our grandmother, aunties, uncles, cousins and their children – more than 20 people total – to make the New Year’s Eve dinner together and watch the fireworks.

After we moved to Issaquah Highlands in 2017, we still make our traditional dumpling Chinese New Year dinner to celebrate and make wishes through phones to our loved family members. Most of all, wearing red.

Wishing you, my dear friends in this wonderful community, all the best in the ‘Rat’ Year!

Photo: Alexandra (left) with her daughter and husband wearing red during last year’s Chinese New Year.

Alexandra Zhu is a Central Park resident. As published in January 2020 Connections