Students celebrate the Chinese New Year

Lynn Steller

Chinese good wishes were scribed on red paper hanging on the walls inside the Baptist Student Union.

Students from halfway across the globe gathered there last Friday to ring in the year of the monkey and honor their traditions.

The night was a combination of Chinese tradition and American culture. Nearly 100 people from both the Taiwanese Student Association and a religious Taiwanese group from Nashville gathered to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

“Our new year is just like your Thanksgiving,” Joni Kuoo, a senior from Taiwan said.

Kuo said she is studying at Western for three months and couldn’t be home to celebrate. During the new year, families typically get together to feast and celebrate for several days before and after the changing of the year. Though these students were thousands of miles from home, they were still able to celebrate for one night.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated later than Jan. 1 because they follow the lunar calendar. The new year represents a change from winter to spring. Each year is represented by a different character in a 12-year-cycle. This is the year of the monkey, last celebrated in 1992.

The Chinese New Year is filled with tradition. Each person writes a wish or blessing on a piece of red paper. This wish hangs vertically on the wall outside his or her door. The blessing is supposed to follow the wisher throughout the year. Then, at the end of the year, the wish is removed, and a new one replaces it for the upcoming year.

Each student made one for Friday’s event and hung them together on the back wall.

“They are good words for everybody,” Kuo said. “Some say, ‘I want to lose weight,’ or, ‘I want my breasts to be bigger,’ but they are usually more traditional.”

She said that usually a professional writes them because they have nicer script. To her, they are like a poem for the year.

“Everything is red because red in China is lucky,” Kuo said.

Traditional Chinese food was also provided. A dish known as hot pot was served. Hot pot is a spicy broth with vegetables and either seafood or chicken. It is dipped in Shacha sauce to add spice.

“It’s a night you forget about your diet,” Bowling Green resident David Walton said.

Other traditions were also mentioned throughout the evening. Each year, Chinese elders put money in a red envelope to give to the youth, who then take the money and often gamble with it. It is considered good luck money to bring them into the new year.

Staying up all night is another tradition celebrated. It is thought that the longer a person stays up, the longer his or her parents will live, so Kuo said they try not to sleep.

The night continued with speaking and games, and Walton served as a translator. After spending 11 years in Taiwan, teaching English for several of them, he said he is fluent in the language.

Walton said he felt at home during the celebration.

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