Chinese New Year launches 2016

February 11, 2016

The Chinese New Year took place on Feb. 8, bringing in 2016 as the year of the Fire Monkey with red, money-filled envelopes, fireworks and lanterns in the sky and sweet dumplings.

Because it’s based on the lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year typically occurs one month after the Gregorian calendar New Year. Each year is categorized by one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals as well of one of the five elements according to China Highlights, a Chinese travel company.

Much like Zodiac horoscopes, people believe the element and animal given to a year affect the personality traits of children born in that year. Element and animal associated with the year are thought to affect the personality traits of the children born in that year. Since this year is the year of the Fire Monkey, children born on and after Feb. 8 are said to be “ambitious and adventurous, but irritable” as stated by Chinese Highlights.

Junior Vanessa Leung has been celebrating the Chinese New Year since her move to Decatur in 2005 because of the cultural significance to her Chinese family.

The family usually celebrates by decorating the house with fake firecrackers and mandarin oranges, eating Chinese food, and going to see lion and dragon dances presented by a Chinese school in Atlanta.

These are mandarin oranges used to decorate for the New Year in Leung's house. Along with the oranges, the Leungs decorate with fake firecrackers and red paper cutouts called Fai Chun. "The word 'mandarin orange' in Chinese is phonetically similar to the word for 'gold'," Leung said. "The Fai Chun symbolize good fortune and express hope and best wishes for the new year."

These are mandarin oranges used to decorate for the New Year in Leung’s house. Along with the oranges, the Leungs decorate with fake firecrackers and red paper cutouts called Fai Chun. “The word ‘mandarin orange’ in Chinese is phonetically similar to the word for ‘gold’,” Leung said. “The Fai Chun symbolize good fortune and express hope and best wishes for the new year.”

“During a lion dance, I remember the lions coming up to the crowd and interacting with people as a way of asking for donations,” Leung said. “I got to ‘feed’ them red envelopes with money, which was pretty cool.”

Although Leung and her family don’t celebrate the New Year as thoroughly as others in China and cities in the United States with a sizable Asian population, like San Francisco and New York City, the family embraces traditions of the holiday.

“Kids get money from their parents in red envelopes because the color red symbolizes wealth and good fortune,” Leung said. “My parents also give me money, per tradition.”

Leung was born in 1999, the year of the Earth Rabbit.

“When I was younger, I was more interested in what each Zodiac represents, but I never really took it seriously,” she said. “Now I’m more interested in how a person’s birthday affects their Zodiac. For instance, it’s possible for a person’s Zodiac to change depending on when Chinese New Year is.”

2016 began Feb. 8 on the Chinese calendar, according to Chinese Highlights, and ends on Jan. 27, meaning the next Chinese New Year will be Jan. 28, 2017.

Photos courtesy of Vanessa Leung.

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