The year of the pig has officially begun.
However, unlike traditional western New Year’s celebrations, Chinese New Year, also known as the spring festival, celebrations last more than just one night. The spring festival begins each year on the start of the lunar new year, when there is a new moon beginning.
“The Chinese New Year is the same concept as Christmas in western culture,” Yung Te Wang said. “It’s a time period for people to be around their family, relax and have a good time.”
Wang is the teaching assistant that oversees the Chinese House within the Max Kade International Wing of North Village I.
Each year is named after one of 12 zodiac animals. The animals run in a 12-year cycle: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. 2019 is marked by the twelfth animal, the pig, and began Feb. 5.
The pig represents good luck, fortune, wealth and honesty. However, those born under the zodiac pig are considered to be naive, gullible and materialistic.
The new year celebrations will continue for two weeks before they conclude with a lantern festival that represents the end of all celebrations.
“I enjoy that atmosphere. It is very exciting, and you can just feel the positive energy and happiness,” said Kaitlin Franzen, ’20.
There are a number of different ways people celebrate the new year. One way people prepare for the new year is by deep cleaning their houses. Then, a broom is not to be touched during the two weeks of celebration so that the good luck is not swept from the house.
Schools and businesses often close in order to allow people to celebrate the new year by spending time with their families, eating food and resting up for the year ahead.
Celebrations are also marked with fireworks, parades and performances. Fireworks are especially important because it is thought that the noise and light they produce will scare away evil spirits.
Another tradition is to decorate and wear the color red. Red is used to help scare any evil spirits that may be approaching.
“You use the colors red and gold to represent good luck, wealth and other things like that to bring positivity into the new year,” Franzen said.
People also exchange money and notes of good luck packaged in red envelopes during this time of celebration.
“Usually, the elders give (the envelopes) to younger generations and it will have money in it,” Wang said. “It is like Christmas gifts. A lot of people try to give as much as they can give and there are some cheaper family members who still do it to show they care.”
While people try to use the color red wherever possible, white and black are to be avoided during celebrations because they are considered to be associated with bad luck.
The symbolism does not stop here, it even carries over into the food people consume during the new year’s celebrations.
Fish is often consumed during these celebrations and is used to symbolize wealth in China. However, the fish should never be completely consumed. Leaving a bit of the meal untouched represents hope that the year will be full of surplus and abundance.
Long uncut noodles are another food that is typically consumed during New Year’s celebration in order to symbolize a long life.
“I like the feast and people coming together for the new year, and usually the food is really good,” Markeyda Jones, ’21, said.
While the Chinese New Year celebrations vary greatly from those that take place in the United States, there is one similarity. On Feb. 4, people stay up past midnight in order to welcome the new year with open arms.
The Chinese New Year was even celebrated on Allegheny’s campus. The Chinese American Friendship Society and the Chinese House came together to hand out cupcakes and oranges in the Henderson Campus Center lobby to celebrate the new year.
Tangerines and oranges are often exchanged among friends in the beginning of the new year to represent good luck and good fortune.
“It was really nice giving back to Allegheny,” Franzen said. “Being able to show people on campus our Chinese community and that this was happening was very cool.”