The Year of the Rat Students at UW welcome the Lunar New Year

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Photo by Jinlin li

Unlike the solar calendar that is based on the sun’s movement, the Chinese follow the Lunar calendar that is based on the phases of the moon.

According to this calendar, this new year falls on Jan. 25. The New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most important calendar event for Chinese people.

The 12 Chinese zodiac symbols introduce 12 animals—each representing a year—in the sequence of Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. 

Similar to the 12 zodiac signs, each animal represents a personality.

For example, people who were born in the year of the Dog are loyal and never give up halfway. Similarly, many tend to avoid having a baby in the year of the Sheep because Sheep year babies tend to be susceptible to diseases. 

Photo by Jinlin li

“Year” in Chinese is called “Nian” and it has its own legend. Once upon a time, there was a hideous monster called “Nian” with long horns, sharp teeth and fierce eyes.

It stayed in a cave all the time except during the New Year’s Day when it would go to the village to eat people. It was said that “Nian” was only afraid of the colour red and loud noises. Therefore, every villager set off firecrackers and stuck Spring Festival couplets to scare Nian away.

Although “Nian” no longer exists, the tradition has been passed down. Another tradition is to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Families light candles or oil lamps and gather together for a night vigil. It’s a symbol to drive away all evil plagues in the coming New Year. Furthermore, it has two different meanings.

The elderly go for a vigil to bid farewell to the old year and cherish time spent, while the younger generation stays up to pray to prolong their parents’ lives. Chinese people eat traditional food that has symbolic meaning on New Year’s Day.

Noodles symbolize longevity. The longer the noodles, the longer the life. The shape of dumplings is made to resemble the gold or silver ingots of ancient China, hence the Chinese believe eating dumplings can bring great fortune.

There are many relevant celebration activities in the KW region. The City of Kitchener hosted a Chinese New Year event at the Kitchener Farmers Market on Jan 25.

THEMUSEUM in Downtown Kitchener hosted a lion dance and other Chinese New Year-themed events on Jan 26. 

Another Chinese celebration to look forward to is the Chinese Lunar New Year Gala that will be held at the UW’s Federation Hall on Feb 2.

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