The 4713th Chinese New Year was celebrated Feb. 19 and Seton Hill University (SHU) engaged in the festivities. The Office of Multicultural and International Services set up activities in the Maura Solarium and traditional Chinese food was served in the cafeteria for dinner.
Chinese months are based on the lunar calendar, where each month begins on the darkest day. New Year celebrations continue for over two weeks in China, making it the longest celebration of the year. This year is the Year of the Ram, and during this year, people are encouraged to take action and turn their dreams into reality.
“It’s important to recognize other culture’s holidays, for diversity mostly,” said Karisa Kilgore, Intercultural Services Coordinator. “If we’re so insular and only think of our own holidays and traditions, we really miss a lot of what is beautiful about life.”
Activities set up in Maura Solarium to celebrate the holiday included making origami fish, paper fans and ram charms.
In China, many traditions accompany the New Year. “All people all over China will watch the Chinese New Year Gala on New Years Eve while they enjoy their family reunion dinner,” said Ying Zhang, a citizen of China who teaches Language Studies at SHU. “The audience for this is as big as the audience watching the Super Bowl.”
Other traditions include cleaning the house in order to clear out the bad luck and welcome in the good luck. On New Years, children are given red envelopes with money inside, to wish them happiness and blessings in the new year. Family and friends gather together and enjoy playing games, such as cards and mahjong, and eating dinner together.
Chinese New Year dishes include dumplings, chicken, fish, and rice cakes. Most of the dishes served hold symbolism for blessings in the New Year. “Fish means to bless over, it means you will have everything more than enough,” said Zhang.
“For people living in the city, there’s not much difference in their everyday diet and the diet during the festival,” said Zhang. “But for the people living in the countryside, they will only have meat to eat during the festivals.”
The government even provides food for the people living in poverty. “The government can guarantee that every household, whether poor or rich, can enjoy dumplings for the festival,” said Zhang.
“Even if we don’t follow the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year can represent a new beginning and other opportunities to celebrate what is good in life that I think we often take for granted,” said Kilgore.
For students interested in visiting China, SHU offers a study abroad program in Beijing. The May 2015 program is already filled to capacity, but students can sign up for the May 2016 semester. Before leaving for China to study at the Beijing Union University, students take an intensive language course and study the culture. For more information, contact SHU’s Study Abroad Office.