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Celebrate Year of the Horse on WTJU!


Chinese New Year Celebration - Year of the Horse


Please tune in to Radio Tropicale at noon on January 22 as Bruce is joined by guests from the UVa Chinese community for a preview show on Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival. Spring Festival falls on January 31 this year; it is a movable feast which, like Carnival before Lent, comes out of a lunar calendar and is the great last celebration preceding the start of spring.

Spring Festival is the most important festival in Chinese culture, marked by family gatherings with special food, gifts and clothing. It most often lasts for 5 days in modern China, where it is also the busiest travel time of the year as people return home.

There are twelve zodiac animals that mark a cycle of celebrations; if it is your year - that is the year of your birth or 12, 24, 36 etc years later - you celebrate longer!

Next week begins the Year of the Horse!

Spring Festival is also celebrated wherever Chinese communities have flourished, throughout south Asia (Singapore, Australia, etc.) and across the Pacific to the US and Canada.

Following the fullest tradition, WTJU will be celebrating Spring Festival until the Lantern Festival on February 14 (which is Valentine's Day, also a big holiday in China, though an import).

Here are five stories from current or recent Chinese students on the Spring Festival:

From Jason, a Phd student working in Singapore

My family is from Sichuan (Southwestern China, the earthquake province).

My earliest memory of Spring Festival is when I was about 3 or 4 year old, I had a new cotton jacket as a gift. I remembered that because that coat was heavy and my mom was almost packing me into it.

My favorite Spring Festival memory is of the whole family gathering together to make dumplings. I've always been the one watching since I don't know how to make dumplings but it was warm and fun. For me, Spring Festival is all about happiness.

For Spring Festival 2012, I will celebrate with friends here at Singapore and watch the gala*.

*Gala: On Chinese New Year's Eve, China Central Television puts on a four-hour long program in celebration of Chinese New Year. Among good wishes for the new year, the program showcases Chinese culture with performances ranging from the traditional (such as Beijing Opera and pun-based comedy sketches) to the popular (celebrity performances and, recently, magic shows).

From Qiyang, a MS Accounting student at UVa

My family is from He'nan (Central China, place of Chinese national origin).

My earliest memory of Spring Festival is the first time I got Lucky Money* from elder family members.

My favorite memory is of fireworks. We boys also played with firecrackers, and it was fun to see girls screaming while we set them off.

Spring Festival has changed because everything costs more than before. It used to be 100 RMB (15USD) for a huge box of firecrackers, but now it costs double. Also, fireworks are now controlled by the government, so we don't get to see them every night during the festival.

For me as a little kid, Spring Festival meant that I could stay overnight for games and eat a lot, both are not permitted by parents unless it is holiday.

I've been away from home for Spring Festival for five years. So I guess I will just do what's on schedule this year - homework or job-searching.

*Lucky money: A Chinese New Year's tradition. Children - determined by age and marriage status - are given monetary gifts from their elders, who can be anyone ranging from parents and grandparents to extended relations and friends of relations.

From Di, a UVa Commerce MS alumna working and living in Tokyo

I am glad to know that you are interested about how Chinese people spend Spring Festival away from home their country.

A few elements to make a Spring Festival include lucky money, the spring festival gala TV show and a New Year's Eve dinner. The good thing about not being in China during the holiday, is that I don't have to give younger family members lucky money. The TV show is available on Internet and new year's eve dinner is not as important, especially now that I am in Tokyo, where good food is everywhere all the time.

The first Spring Festival I spent out of China was at UVA in 2012 . The new year eve was on a Sunday as I remember and I had this Internship every other Sunday. So I spent the day at Rice Hall on campus, meeting with a few other interns and the team leader to report on my work during the past two weeks. For dinner, my roommate Jolin and I went to another apartment in our building on JPA, where we joined the two Chinese students living there for new year's eve dinner. My roommate is now dating one of the guys and they are both in Shanghai at the present. The four of us made dumplings and watched the Spring Festival gala on the Internet together. The next day I had an exam in corporate finance, but the professor apologized before handing out exam papers, for putting the exam on the most important holiday for the six Chinese students in class. I found that to be quite sweet. For dinner that day, our program had a pot luck at McIntire building, I cooked sweet and sour pork ribs and everybody enjoyed it. A few American classmates ordered food from Peter Chang and claimed they made it.

Last year I moved to Tokyo and unfortunately there is still no public holiday for three and half million Chinese people living in the country. Luckily new year's eve still fell on a weekend. I went to my coworker Lulu's place for dinner. Lulu has been in Tokyo for two years and she met her husband during a trip to Yunnan, China, when she was an English major. Since the guy was already working in Japan after earning his Phd she decided to move to Japan to be with him after college. So Lulu later went to UWaseda for graduate school and started working for Rakuten [big Japanese media firm; Di's employer] the same year as I did. She got married this past summer and has since quit her job much like most Japanese women. Now she and her husband have bought a house in north Tokyo and travel between Beijing, where she is from, and Tokyo. This new year's eve I spent with them and unfortunately they spent quite a long time arguing about whether they should move back to Beijing. Lulu's husband has a Phd in computer science and has been running his own business here in Japan for a while now and if he moves the business to Beijing he could benefit from a financial sponsor and tax break. So he was tempted. But Lulu argued that she has just moved to Japan and that they were on their way toward getting a permanent residency in Japan. Although she is from Beijing, she does not like living there, which means seeing her parents at least one time per week and dealing with the crazy traffic and pollution is enough for her. At the same time as they carried on this argument I was busy preparing hot pot and when finished it tasted really good. In the end they agreed to move to Beijing and give it a try for one year, if it works they will give up life here in Japan and move back permanently. If either of them feels unhappy they will return back to Japan. Now that it has been almost a year, I am wondering what the result is of their time in Beijing and whether they will be returning to Japan.

I don't know if any of these are helpful for your show, but when I think of holiday, I usually think of the people that I spent it with. At least that is what first came to my mind.

From Lily, a Semester At Sea Fall 2012 Voyager, recent UCLA graduate and A Horse

My family is from Beijing. Spring festival is the biggest deal in my family because it is the only time that all three generations from my mother's side would get together for sure. This may sound awkward to a lot of Chinese families because most families gather together around the father's side. However we really enjoyed our reunion with my mother's side of family.

The meaning for Spring Festival changes over time. When I was in elementary school, Spring Festival meant new clothes, good food, and staying at home without working on homework. Later on I got into junior high school, receiving money in a tiny envelope became the most appealing part because I could use the money to buy books. Then as I got into high school, everything changed as I came to U.S. to study through an exchange program. So when I finally got back to China after a year and could celebrate spring festival again with my family, the festival became the most important thing in my mind. For whatever year I could celebrate it with my family, I considered it as a good year; otherwise it would be a struggling year. As I grow older and spend more time abroad, I miss my family more. Being able to celebrate the festival with my family has become the priority of my life but it conflicts with my school schedule. Since college, I have always taken midterms during the festival and would only celebrate with my friends while skyping with my family. This year, I tried my best to graduate early so that I can get my spring term off to go back to celebrate the festival with my family. This is my commitment to my family and to the largest celebration of the year. Even though I still get new clothes, good food, and money, I consider being with my family as the most appealing part of the festival.

Year of 2014 is a special year for my family because it is going to be the year of Horse. In my family, we have four horses: my grandma, my mom, my cousin, and I. This is very rare because we are celebrating a year that all three generations belong to. Most importantly, my grandma is already 84 and we have to wait for another 12 years in order to celebrate another year of horse. It is very likely that this would be my grandma's last year of horse so this is why I have to go back to celebrate it with my family. For what I know so far, we are going to have a 17-day celebration. The 17 days would include the day called small festival which is a week prior to the new year, the new year's eve, and the 1st to the 15th day. Different activities would be carried out for different days. On small festival, we are going to host a memorial ceremony for my grandfather because he died 24 years ago around this time. Then on the new year' eve, we would have the largest meal of the year, which normally includes 18 dishes. Also we would make pot stickers, play card games, watch the national celebration on tv, and so on. Then from 1st to 15th, we would visit friends, family members, and go to Temple Affairs which is similar to the state fair in the US. It would be a busy time of the year though people do not necessarily have to work.

I am very looking forwards to celebrating the festival with my family. I love my family and this is why I care about the festival.

From Jing Han from Weihei (east of Beijing on the Yellow Sea) and a Fall 2012 Voyager on Semester At Sea

The first time I celebrated Spring Festival overseas I was in the UK. I was an exchange student at York University. There was a Spring Festival party at the lunar new year's eve. About 200 people, including Chinese and western students, were gathering at the dinning hall. We were served with free food, not Chinese cuisine. But at the end, each of us was served 4 fried dumplings. I was grateful for a celebration there, but I was still very shocked by the fried dumplings. Usually we eat boiled dumplings in China. They said many western people don't like the taste of boiled dumplings, so they had to fry them. After the dinner, we watched Spring Festival gala TV show through the internet. It's always a good atmosphere when people watch together. Then some students went to the corner of the dinning hall to do games, such as Chinese Calligraphy and art cutting. I simply sat there talking with people I knew.

This year, as a masters student at University of Michigan, I am again abroad for the Spring Festival. But this year will be much better, as my boyfriend is coming from China to U.S to accompany me. We are going spend the new year at the Disney World. I know we are far older than a Disney age, but it still sounds to be very memorable to me. I don't know if there will be any special theme during this time at Disney world. Last week, though it was still one week before Spring Festival, I went to Las Vegas and found Chinese decorations at the front gates of almost every hotel. I guess there must be a huge number of Chinese tourists in Las Vegas every year. I don't know if there will also be decorations or celebrations in Orlando.

Celebrations in the area:

Jan 22 WTJU Spring Festival Preview - 12 noon - Bruce & guests

Jan 27 WTJU The Broadcasting System Preview - 2pm

Jan 29 WTJU Radio Tropicale - 1 pm - Bruce hosts Greg Brown playing music of the pipa that he arranged for classical guitar

Jan 31 Commerce School Dinner - Friday evening (private)

Jan 31 Cafe 88, Peter Chang, etc - Special Dinners

Feb 1 WTJU World Turning - 1 pm - Bruce hosts Fang Guo and her parents from Harbin (the Fairbanks of northern China)

Feb 1 CSSS Spring Festival Gala Cai Shen dao! God of Wealth at Nursing School, 7-11pm; Free

Feb 2 WTJU Spring Festival Red Mouth Day - Radio Wowsville Goes Red in the Mouth

Feb 14 WTJU Lantern Festival/St. Valentine's Day Celebration - on shows all day & night!

Feb 22 Lunar New Year Gala hosted by the Piedmont Chinese Association; Fashion Square Mall, booth starting at 1pm, live performances begins at 2pm with children's story telling at 1:30pm.

For more information on Chinese New Year/Spring Festival:

Text and links by Bruce Penner, stories collected by Di, story notes by Di and Rose.  And thanks to Adrienne Kim Bird of the UVa International Students Office and Semester at Sea. Edited by Bruce Penner and Tiffany Bumgardner.

WTJU is owned and operated by the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia.
The opinions expressed by announcers or guests on WTJU are not necessarily the opinions of WTJU or the University of Virginia.