Chinese New Year

I am sponsoring a diversity club here on campus. It’s a new club we’re starting up this semester. To kick it off, we did a presentation today about the Chinese New Year, since today is, in fact, Chinese New Year. It went really well! I wrote it and a student from Taiwan delivered the speech. I think most Americans know nothing about the holiday. Here is the presentation; I hope you learn a thing or two.

Today is Chinese New Year. You didn’t even realize today was a holiday, did you?

Over 1.4 BILLION people around the world celebrate it. It is called Chinese New Year because one of the main places it’s celebrated is in China, but it’s also celebrated in Australia, the U.S, Taiwan, Korea, Canada, Malaysia, and anywhere else that has a large Chinese population.

Have you heard of the Chinese Zodiac? Perhaps you’ve been in a Chinese restaurant and seen a placemat that lists years and animals. This is similar to Western astrology, like being a Gemini or Virgo. There is also a Zodiac sign given to each year. This new year is the year of the horse, or,ma, in Chinese.

Here’s a short video about the legend of the animals in the zodiac.

There are many traditions that people keep as they celebrate the Chinese New Year, which is also called Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year. The Festival lasts 15 days. Most people have about 1 full week off work and 1 full month off school. How nice!

During this time, everyone travels home to be with their families, just like at Christmas in the US. In mainland China, the population is over 1 billion people, so the trains and buses are so crowded!

Red is the lucky color of the New Year and everything is decorated with red and gold. We decorate with paper lanterns. In fact, the last day of the New Year celebration ends with something called the Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the lunar calendar, you can go around town and see huge lanterns or light displays. These huge light displays can also be found at temples.

Fireworks are a huge part of the celebration. Did you know that fireworks were invented in China and have been around for over 1,000 years? It is said that we began using them to drive away evil spirits from our New Year. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, you will see and hear so many fireworks.

Hong bao, or red envelope, is used to give gifts of money. This is always done for Chinese New Year. Again, the color red is lucky and also wards off evil spirits. Mostly the hong bao are given to children. This is probably pretty similar to giving Christmas gifts.

 Of course a huge part of any holiday is the food. There are many traditional foods that we eat for Chinese New Year. One of the main ones is fish. The Chinese word for fish is yu. It sounds similar to the word for riches. So, on New Years we eat fish so that our wishes will come true in the year to come. Many sweets are also eaten because they symbolize a sweet and rich life. Can you see that the Chinese really love symbolism? The luck might come from the name, as I already stated or it might even be considered lucky based on what the food looks like.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Chinese New Year.


Photo I took in Xi'an, China for New Year 2011

Photo I took in Xi’an, China for New Year 2011

A Tiger Does Not Father a Dog

This week I am teaching at an orientation for new teachers who will go to China in August. This is my 5th year helping in the wonderfully exciting state of Arkansas.

Perhaps I’ll post more about the training soon, but right now I want to share some Chinese proverbs I was reading in the training manual. It lists some popular American proverbs that have Chinese equivalents. Some of them are tooo funny, including the one that I used to title this post. Look  at each Chinese proverb that is listed first and see if you can guess the English equivalent. I wasn’t very successful when I tried!

A tiger does not father a dog. (Hu fu wu quan zi.) Like father, like son.

Bitten by a snake on one morning, afraid of the rope by the well for ten years. (Yi zhao bei she yao, shi nian pa jing sheng.) Once bitten, twice shy.

There is no person that has 1,000 good days in a row and no flower that stays red for 100 days. (Ren wu qian ri hao, hua wu bai ri hong.) All good things come to an end.

A daughter-in-law who suffers will one day become a mother-in-law. (Xifu ao cheng po.) What goes around comes around.

– When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would not be fortuitous. (Sai weng shima, yan shi fei fu.)- Every cloud has a silver lining.  [This one makes me chuckle but makes sense!]

– Even water gets stuck in your teeth. ( He kou liang shui dou neng sai ya feng.)- When it rains, it pours.

If you don’t enter the tiger’s den, how will you get the tiger’s cub? ( Bu ru hu xue, yan de hu zi.) Nothing ventured, nothing gained. [There’s quite a few about tigers, huh?]

One can not get fish and bear’s paw at the same time. (Yu yu xiong zhang bu ke jian de.) One can’t have one’s cake and eat it too.  [I don’t get this one at all! Hehe.]

Were you able to guess any of them? I like some of the Chinese translations better, as they seem more poetic to me somehow. Are there any proverbs in other cultures that you have encountered that make you chuckle? If so, please share! And, as always, please share this post on your social media if you enjoyed it.

Counting Sheep

I know most people count sheep to try to fall asleep, but I am always doing uh, unique, things when I can’t sleep. I started my first method when I was a kid. I tried to name all my cousins. For some people, this may be an easy accomplishment. However, when your dad has 12 brothers and sisters, you end up with more than 30 first cousins. I seriously remember lying in my bed in 2nd or 3rd grade trying to name every cousin I have and always falling asleep before I finished.

My next technique started after moving to China. I try and count in Chinese as high as I can. Yi, er, san, snoooooze. That one usually works pretty well. I guess I started this one just because I was practicing my Chinese.

My newest method has been trying to name all the airports I have been in. I guess this one started a few months ago when I was buying a plane ticket. I started wondering if I had been to a certain airport, and I really didn’t know. So, that night in bed I tried to think of all the airports I have been through. It was quite a few! More than 25 I’m sure.

I got to thinking that these might be strange ways to try and fall asleep, but maybe others have even weirder things they count or name in order to make themselves sleepy. What works for you?