Chinese calendar rings in new year

Ryan M. Melton

Thursday is the first day of the new year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese New Year is a holiday celebrated by the Chinese and the peoples of many other Asian nations.

“It’s an important day because it says that you can start over. Every new year, we can forget about what happened in the last,” said Huy Pham, president of the Vietnamese Student Association. “On New Year’s Day, everything must be new so that it can lead us into a new year.”

Ken Tsai, member of the Taiwanese Student Association and an ISU alumnus, said that according to the Chinese calendar, this is the Year of the Monkey.

The Chinese lunar calendar is based upon the cycles of the moon, as opposed to the Western calendar, which is based on the sun. There are twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac and signs are assigned to years in a rotating cycle.

Tsai said the system essentially mirrors the western horoscope. When someone is born under a certain sign, that person is professed to take on the characteristics of the sign. One characteristic of the monkey sign is intelligence.

Pham, senior in management information systems, said the traditional way of celebrating the Chinese New Year in Vietnam centers around the importance of strengthening the connection each individual has with his or her family. Gifts are also exchanged.

“We go to our families and relatives and ask for their blessings, and we connect with each other,” he said.

Traditions often bear symbolism, using everyday items to represent something larger, Pham said.

“Usually on New Year’s Day in Vietnam, a plate of five fruits is prepared, each representing something important, and when they are brought together, the dish represents the New Year,” he said.

Even though Thursday marks the New Year for Pham and others, the Vietnamese Student Association will celebrate by putting on an event Feb. 14.

“Every year we have traditional performances, provide food,and a lot of other activities that show all of our culture,” Pham said.

The celebration will include a fashion show that will present the clothing of Vietnam, as well as songs and cultural dances.

Many other organizations on campus, besides the Vietnamese Student Association, also celebrate the Chinese New Year. However, Pham said most organizations celebrate separately because of the different ways each nation celebrates the holiday.

Members of the Taiwanese Student Association celebrated the Chinese New Year Monday at the Collegiate United Methodist Church, Tsai said.

“The main purpose [of the celebration] was to get everyone together with family and eat. It’s kind of like Thanksgiving,” Tsai said. “Also, people come wearing new clothes. We introduced the culture of Taiwan to the ISU community by showing toys that we used to play with in Taiwan, and we showed a video that talked about the beauty of Taiwan.”

Tsai said there is a basic tradition of how people celebrate the New Year in Taiwan.

“Two days before New Year’s Day, everyone cleans their houses. Everywhere should be clean because it means that you sweep away the bad luck and let the good luck in for next year,” Tsai said. “On New Year’s Eve, the family gets together to eat, and the older people give a red envelope to the children. Money is put in the envelope to represent good luck, and red also represents good luck.”