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The Importance of Traditions During Chinese New Year

More important than any other holiday during the year, billions of people worldwide will celebrate the beginning of Chines New Year festivities this year on February 12, 2021. Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year according to the traditional Chinese calendar. The first day of celebrations occurs on different days every year but traditionally marks the end of winter and the beginning of the spring season.

As a Chinese person myself, Chinese New Year has always been a significant celebration within my family and community. However, most members within my university community are predominantly white and often don’t understand the importance of our traditions. As with any cultural customs, please remember to be respectful and open-minded to the various activities we partake in as part of celebrations. While most non-Asians may associate Chinese New Year with large parades in Chinatown, most traditional celebrations are rooted in folk stories and ancient mythology. Many other family customs and traditions are passed down from one generation to the next.

Every year, millions of Asian people everywhere make the trip home to spend time with family and friends for 1-2 weeks. Like most major holidays, Chinese New Year celebrations begin with a large family dinner. It’s a time to catch up with one another and reunite to wish each other a prosperous new year. Everyone dresses in red clothing and festive decor adorn the outside and inside of houses. Traditionally, red decorations ornamented the streets to scare off Nian, an ancient mythical creature who terrorized the towns every beginning of Spring but was afraid of the colour red. Now, the colour red is generally associated with good fortune and symbolizes wealth.

Another important and often favourite part of Chinese New Year for young children is to receive red envelopes. These red envelopes are typically given by the elderly and other married couples. Most of the time, red envelopes contain cash or other little gifts, including coins or other handwritten blessings. 

More than ever this year, celebrating Chinese New Year without the usual family and friend gatherings will be difficult for many of us. Even if you don’t typically celebrate Chinese New Year, know that it’s a hard time for your other friends who do. However, I encourage you to try celebrating Chinese New Year with them! It won’t be the same, but there are so many traditional activities you can partake in together, even online. Remember to wish your Asian friends a happy Chinese New Year and a prosperous new year!

Melissa Huen

Wilfrid Laurier '22

Melissa is in her 4th year at Wilfrid Laurier University, studying Music Therapy with a minor in Psychology. When she's not busy raving about her hometown, Vancouver, BC, you can find her baking, travelling, or checking out the newest restaurants in town.
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