Feb 13

An Introduction to Chinese New Year

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

Celebrating a New Year... in February??? Yes, indeed!

The Gregorian (or "Western") calendar is not the only calendar used on the planet. The 1 billion+ people in China, among other countries, use the Lunar calendar and that New Year is coming up! Precisely on February 19th.

As the traditional Chinese attach zodiac characters to their yearly cycles, this year is the Year of the Sheep. Very simplified: All people born in a year share the same zodiac sign. (Here’s a link to read more if you are curious about the signs, the variations, etc)

I personally have the fine distinction to be classified as a Rat. I wish the term “mouse” was used instead (better connotations?) but rats are clever and sneaky… Sounds like any mom to me! Which one are you? Find out here. (This will give you a rough idea by year, although the "Lunar New Year" to be more correct does not start on January 1st, so you will need to type in your entire date of birth on other websites to be most accurate).

Chinese New Year: A Four-Part Series

Enough of the background information. Are you still with me? I am writing this entry as an introduction to a special 4-Part Series on the Chinese New Year to share special family memories of a good friend, who is from Shanghai, China. I have not yet had the good fortune to visit the "Middle Kingdom" or Zhongguo (中 国 ), however I want to present cultural traditions, including food, to show our differences and similarities.

As I step off my soap box, I will say that this is one illustration or intended consequence of learning another language: to make connections with others, find the similarities and perhaps, dare I say it, revel in some of the differences. Jump's! founder, Jackie Sanin, strongly believes that with language immersion, we learn that "we are more similar than different," and I must echo that sentiment. I have seen it in my travels. If you distill our wants as human beings, we seek: gainful employment, to provide for ourselves, and provide for our families. We worry about school, safety, and our children. This is the case if you are a sheep herder from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, an electrician in Whippany, NJ, or a private equity trader in Manhattan, NY.

As we can all imagine, just as we cannot classify or distill certain traditions to the entire United States, one cannot use a broad brush stroke to simplify things across all of China. There are regional differences, to be sure, but also city vs. countryside differences. We will highlight some of those as we learn more about Chinese New Year over the next few days.

Please take this journey with me as we count down to celebrate Chinese New Year!

This post is the introduction to 4-part series on Chinese New Year:

Chinese New Year Introduction »
Part I: Chinese New Year's Eve »
Part II: Chinese New Year & Family Time »
Part III: Chinese New Year & Kids »
Part IV: The Lantern Festival »

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A Printable Chinese Zodiac Placemat! »