Tuesday, January 21, 2020

More About The Lunar New Year

Most commonly known as Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year is on January 25 this year. In accordance to the Chinese Zodiac, each year is a special year for each of the Zodiac creatures. 2019 was the Year of the Pig. And 2020 is the Year of the Rat!

Like for all major events that has global significance, the Lunar New Year celebrates the annual waking and feeding of the 'Nian' (translated to English it means 'Year'). It wakes from winter to feed on crops and villagers, mostly children. And thus inspired the Chinese Dragon Dance, where dangers use beautiful and colorful cloth to create a lion who eats red envelopes and cabbage hung high, which would bring everyone good luck for the year.

According to legends, some believe that loud sounds can scare away the evil spirits and intimidate the Nian. In recent years, people have substituted the loud crashes of bowls and plates with fire crackers. Sweeping and cleaning plaques are thought of as warding away evil spirits or bad vibes that surround a home and people. And there are some foods that are thought of as bringing the family together like eating nian-gao, hot pot, dumplings, mochi, and tangyuan.

Literature has long since tied many of the customs to this epic day of celebration! Take a look as some of the picks that can be found in the Armacost Library below!

"Gung Hay Fat Choy" by June Behrens can be found under the call number GT4905 B45 in Jasper's Corner. Published by the Childrens Press in Chicago, this hard covered book covers many different celebration aspects about the celebration of the Lunar New Year. Noted as the "grandest birthday party of all", there are the hanging red signs, different foods and activities, including the giving of red envelopes from adults to children. This book focuses on the Cantonese culture of celebrations, specific words, and phrases. However, the overall message of celebration is clear and family involvement and parades are a widespread tradition. Photos depicting such events brings the event to life better than illustrations can.

Another great book is "The Year of the Rat" by Grace Lin. In the Juvenile collection under the call number PS3562 I51 Y437 2008. In this series, Lin's writings feature a girl named Pacy who celebrates the Lunar New Year with her family and another Taiwanese family of friends. They tell stories about legends and how traditions came to be with them. From why the Rat comes first in the Zodiac and where food, animal, design, and activities from the celebration comes from, Pacy's insight as an Asian american brings forward different perspectives she develops on her own. There are moments where Pacy realizes and thinks in ways that readers of any age can connect to and this makes her more relate-able. But the highlights and stories come from her interactions with her parents. The stories they tell and the ideas they give her truly help her grow and understand more about her heritage.

A good source of information in our General Collection is "Narcissus: Chinese New Year Flower legends & Folklore" by William C. Hu. Introduced as the flower that best represents Chinese New Year, this book is filled with stories of different Chinese folklore and legends, passed down through telling it from one generation to the other. These stories form the traditional Chinese thoughts and ways of life, and all of them focus on morals and teachings that benefit and teach lessons for those who hear them.

It's customary, especially in Asian countries, to start the celebration for the Lunar New Year on the day and then, for two weeks, continue the celebration, family time, eating, and end it with the Lantern Festival. This is the time of the year where businesses and shops close for the year and spend time with their family and friends. Red is a color of good luck and happiness. So be sure to explore this special holiday with all your senses and enjoy them with your friends and family!

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