Chinatown parade ushers in year of the Rat

by Beacon Staff • February 6, 2008

Dragons, dancers and decorations will soon engulf our Chinatown neighbors as the 15-day celebration of the Lunar New Year begins. This year the Chinese community rejoices as the calendar changes from the year of the Pig to the year of the Rat and everyone says goodbye to the old and welcomes the new.

The celebration is called the Lunar New Year in the United States. Originally the Vietnamese observed the Tet while the Chinese culture recognized the Chinese New Year. However, upon bringing these two festivities to the United States the cultures converged to celebrate the New Year together. They named this combination the Lunar New Year.

The event takes place on the second new moon after the winter solstice; therefore, it is on a different day each year. This year the New Year starts on Feb. 7 and ends 15 days later.

"The Chinese New Year is about renewing hope and fortune for the upcoming year," said Gwen Vu, president of Emerson's Asian Students for Intercultural Awareness (ASIA), which is dedicated to recognizing different Asian cultures.

Shih-Han Wang, a junior transfer student from Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan will be partying without the traditional festivities.

"The New Year itself means that all people will have a new start, they are hoping the next whole year will be very peaceful and making more money," the speech communications major said. "One day there's a gathering for many people. The whole family comes together to eat dinner."

Storefronts and homes in Chinatown will soon be overwhelmed with signs and streamers in red and gold, the official colors of the New Year. To commemorate the holiday, it is customary to post signs with symbols of luck and fortune in storefront windows, exchange presents with family and have a gathering of friends. According to Vu, it is tradition for adults to give young children gifts of small red envelopes with money inside.

Another major part of the New Year is the celebration of animals. The Chinese calendar has a twelve-year cycle with each year represented by a different creature. These symbols are used to help everyone remember their age. In Chinese tradition it is not necessary to remember the numeric year in which you were born. Instead, you remember what animal you were born under. For example, anyone who was born under the Rat is currently either 1, 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73, 85, or 97.

In the U.S. the Lunar New Year revelry has evolved into a festival with parades, dragons, dancers and music. Over the 15-day f