Gaudia Yang Li, a native Chinese, from Beijing, studies the culture of unity at the Sophia University Institute in Loppiano. In this article, she explains what the celebration of the Lunar New Year represents in the Asian world. This year it falls on January 25.
The Lunar New Year, called Chunjie or Spring Festival in China, marks the beginning of the new year and represents the moment when what is old is left behind to welcome the new. Its rich cultural content generates a strong cohesion in the people.
Everybody celebrates. Family members who are away from home return and join the others before New Year’s Eve. The activities are varied and range from dusting the house to the big family dinner. Then there is the New Year’s Eve, the important spring couplets (typical red decorations), the good luck phrases, visits and New Year’s greetings.
Dusting the house is one of the preparatory activities for the celebration: it sweeps away all the negative air and darkness of the year, bringing in good wishes for the future.
The end of the year dinner is the most important moment for the family. During the Vigil, they stay together all night to ward off disease and misfortune. For the elderly, it means abandoning the old year and welcoming the new with lots of light. For young people, it means wishing their parents a long life.
There is also the custom of throwing firecrackers and fireworks to create a festive atmosphere and wish happiness to the family.
In recent years, this celebration has promoted cultural exchanges between China and various Asian countries and has enriched relations between them. Not only that, this festive period has become an opportunity to increase contacts with the rest of the world. More and more Chinese people are going abroad during these holidays. Wherever they go, they bring their costumes and customs, make friends and build bridges. It is an excellent opportunity to communicate their values.
2020 is the year of the rat. The Rat is the first sign of the Chinese zodiac. The animals of the zodiac are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Following cycles of 12 years, each Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a new zodiacal year, to which one of the 12 animals is associated.
Each animal in the Chinese zodiac has a symbolic meaning and a specific characteristic. The characteristic of the Rat’s sign is wisdom and can be defined as sharp, versatile, gentle, resourceful.
Since I’ve been in Sophia, I’ve noticed that here the idea of partying always involves music and dancing, indeed, I would say that when, from a distance, you can hear the music, that’s when the party starts. For us, on the other hand, the important thing is to stay with the family and eat those foods that contain rich symbolism: they often express people’s wishes and blessings, their understanding of nature and their gratitude for all the things in the world.
It seems to me that now, for me, the feast has acquired other nuances, other ways of expressing itself, so the joy is greater and more colorful.
Gaudia Yang Li