By Xiaochen

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is on January 28th this year, the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar for 2017. Usually falling between late January and late February, the New Year marks the most important and most widely celebrated festival across the country. With a strong belief in family reunion during this time, the Chinese people, from every corner of the country and even overseas, still travel a long way back home for the reunion with their family and extended families. In the month of the festival last year, such a home-returning trend created a new high of 2.91 billion trips by road, railway, air, and water altogether!

Each Chinese year is represented by a zodiac animal, with a cycle of 12 animals in total. Traditionally, the reputed qualities attributed to each animal are endowed in the people who are born that year. The most well known qualities for people born in the year of Rooster include being energetic, trustworthy, determined and responsible. What’s more, the pronunciation of the Chinese character for “rooster” is similar to that of the character for “auspicious”, another implied good meaning for the year!

Nowadays, Chinese people can enjoy a national 7-day vacation during the Spring Festival and schools have a winter holiday of three to four weeks. Officially, the festival lasts 16 days in a row with New Year’s Eve, the first day, and the fifteenth day of the New Year being the most significant.

One of the highlights for New Year’s Eve is the reunion dinner which is usually a big dinner attended by all the extended families either at home or in a restaurant (a new trend in recent years). During or after the dinner, families often watch the special live national gala—songs, dances, stage drama, magic, etc.—which lasts over 4 hours ‘til almost midnight. Also, fireworks are a must during the Eve, making people excited as they highly anticipate the approaching year! On the first day of the New Year, people visit relatives and friends to extend their wishes and cares, while on the fifteenth day, signifying the end of the festival, families get together again to have a dinner. In a word, the core of the whole festival lies in family and reunion.

Special things representative of the festival include house and street decorations, new clothes, Chinese New Year scrolls and pictures, traditional food like dumplings, and red envelope money! The money, with varying sums depending on the giver, is sealed in a red envelope for kids and teenagers of one’s own or from extended families. The implied meaning for the money in Chinese is “to suppress one’s age”. In today’s technological world, it’s quite fashionable and popular to send and “grab” electronic red envelopes on social platforms, adding new fun for the festival!

For overseas Chinese, many still keep the tradition of celebrating the Spring Festival. In Ann Arbor, for example, the Chinese students of UM, who are unable to go back home during this time, hold a grand gala every year to enjoy the New Year in their own way.