Tuesday, February 1 marked the beginning of the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year (also known as the Chinese New Year, ChunJie, Seollal, and Têt), which celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunisolar calendar. Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, among others. The New Year celebration is usually celebrated for multiple days—not just one day as in the Gregorian calendar’s New Year. In 2022, Lunar New Year begins on February 1. The New Year typically begins with the first new moon that occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar—until the full moon arrives (credit: History.com).
On Tuesday, students, faculty and staff joined together to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Students were invited to wear red tops with their uniform bottoms, a tradition to both ward off evil spirits and because red is an auspicious color. Lower, Middle and Upper School students were able to hear from their friends and teachers about traditions in their homes.
The Middle and Upper School hosted a Ping Pong Tournament for students during lunch. We were lucky enough to have a guest referee. Ms. Bei Sun is a former member of the Chinese National Ping Pong Team, and currently coaching in Salt Lake City. She brought a ping pong ball previously used in a US Open that we got to use in our tournament. The champion, Grant C. ’23, received several prizes, including the ping pong ball. Runners-up were Samir S. ’22, Mateusz S. ’22, Austin F. ’25. Students watched the tournament, said new year wishes in Chinese to receive red packets, and enjoyed new year candies.
Below we also share some of the recordings and talks given throughout the week in celebration of Lunar New Year.
Enjoy this video of Middle and Upper School students, faculty and staff sending their well wishes with Chinese phrases on Lunar New Year!
Welcome everybody! Thank you all for joining us at this special assembly. Today, February 1st, Tuesday, is the 2022 Spring Festival, also known as the Lunar New Year, and the Chinese New Year. Today is the day for billions of people across the globe to celebrate the passing of winter, and the coming of spring. (I know it’s freezing these days, but spring is indeed right around the corner. Plus we’re only one month away from spring break, so hang in there!) The festival is the beginning of a new year according to the traditional Chinese calendar, a lunisolar calendar that is based on astronomical phenomena. The exact date of the Spring Festival fluctuates every year depending on the appearance of the new moon, ranging from January 21 to February 20.
Spring Festival is not just a holiday that celebrates the new year. Its profound cultural and historical background dated back to as far as the Han Dynasty, which was established in 202 BC, during which the first celebration of the festival was recorded. Therefore, the Spring Festival has been celebrated for more than 2 thousand years. Today, it is the most important festival in China, Korea, Vietnam, and other countries and populations.
The Spring Festival is closely associated with myths and legends of old, often relating to a mythical beast called “nian”, whose name means “year” in English. Legends told that the beast was fearsome and cruel, residing in the mountains or under the sea. It came out of its slumber, ravaging villages and preying on people every year at the end of winter. Yet people were able to overcome this monster. They learned that the beast was afraid of explosions and the color red. The next year, people successfully drove the beast away using firecrackers and wearing red clothes – even the houses were covered with red papers. To ensure the beast’s defeat, the practices were carried on years after years, giving birth to what we have today. Legends and myths are oftentimes associated and intertwined with history, and studies show that back in the old times, people used firecrackers to scare away monkeys and ape-like creatures from ravaging crop fields; on the other hand, red has always been a symbol of good fortune in Chinese culture. Maybe these are the roots of our traditions today.
In the modern age, Spring Festival is a period for family reunion. Families come together and share a dinner feast on the eve before the festival, often traveling across the entire country in the process. Perhaps you’re aware of the spectacular spring festival travel rush, a period of travel that creates an extreme traffic load. Not only traffic, restaurants would also be crowded, and for some of the popular restaurants, reservations for New Year’s eve have to be made half a year before.
The entire celebration lasts for two weeks, and would be the happiest time of the year for children, who receive red envelopes filled with cash, the so-called “money warding off old age”, to keep beneath their pillows when they go to bed. Whether they’re able to keep the money after the festival is a question though, most certainly don’t. Many other practices and traditions accompany the two weeks- span of the festival including special performances.
Thank you Kim, and hi everyone! I’m one of the presidents of the International Club. For those of you who don’t know, Chinese New Year marks the change from one zodiac year to the next. There are 12 zodiac signs, but today is the beginning of the year of the tiger. For our middle schoolers, if you were born between February 14th, 2010 and February 2nd, 2011, you’re a tiger! Each of the zodiacs has certain traits that go along with them. Tigers are known to be energetic, fearless, and they love a challenge.
When your zodiac year comes around, you tend to attract more energy, including bad luck, so you should make sure to wear a little red every day in order to keep it away. As Kim talked about, one of the legends of Chinese New Year is the story of the “nian” monster, who was scared away by the color red and loud fireworks. We couldn’t exactly bring fireworks in, but we handed out some bubble wrap to pop at the count of three to recreate the sound!
If any of you have been in the Chinese classrooms this week, you might have seen the decorations the Chinese and International clubs put up. Obviously most of the decorations are red and gold, which are both lucky colors. There are lanterns, and you might have seen papercuttings at the windows and doors. Most of these cuttings have the character 福 (fú), which means good luck, and if you pay attention you’ll notice the cuttings hung on the doors are hung upside down. It’s actually a pun. In Chinese, 到 (dào) means to arrive. However another character is 倒 (dào), which means upside down. Basically, by hanging it upside down we’re saying that the good luck has arrived.
I’m Chinese American, and the Chinese side of my family all live in China, so it’s usually just my parents, my sister, and me when the new year comes. We eat dumplings on New Year’s Eve while watching 春节联欢晚会 (chūn jié lián huān wǎn huì), the national New Year’s Gala that has everything from comedy skits to traditional dances. What’s really important at New Year’s is spending time with your loved ones, so even if it’s something as small as greeting each other, you’re still able to celebrate.
To finish this off I’ll teach you all a few phrases we say on New Year’s! The first one is 恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái) , which wishes you wealth and good fortune. The second one is 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè), which means happy new year. And the third one is 春节好 (chūn jié hǎo), which means happy Spring Festival. If you come to the ping pong tournament during lunch today and say one of these phrases to us, you’ll also receive a red packet!
During our Morning Meeting, IIIC students interviewed Mr. Qian (William) since he lives in China and knows a lot about Chinese New Year. They were excited to talk to my husband too! 🙂
William shared pictures of his family growing up, his village in Hubei province, the city of Guangzhou, and Chinese New Year memories. He also shared some of his stories from growing up in China.
While showing a map of China, William explained that over half-a-million people travel in China during Chinese New Year because it is so important for everyone to “hui jia” or “go home”. This means train stations, especially, can be very crowded. He showed pictures to our class and shared the story of he and I going back to his hometown for the first time in 2002. We could only get the “hard seat” tickets and it took us 20 hours on a crowded train, and then another 10 hours to actually get to his hometown. Quite an ordeal!
The students asked about his favorite food at CNY and he said it was fish. Fish is essential at the CNY dinner (held the eve of Chinese New Year) because it’s meaningful in Chinese culture. The word for fish is “yu” and the sound of that character also means “having something left over”. This symbolizes having more than enough for next year and into the future—symbolizing that your family will not go without.
Students asked how many people live in Guang Zhou and they could not quite comprehend that the answer is 18 million! We discussed that the population of Utah is about 3 million.
This was a short conversation (about 30 minutes), and the students hope to interview him again about schools and jobs in China.
In this video, Director of Marketing and Communications Amanda Apple shares the traditions that her family have for Lunar New Year:
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