Happy Year of the Dragon! Or Should I Say 恭禧發財!

Ready to celebrate in Taiwan(Photo: Rick Buchanan Photography)
Ready to celebrate in Taiwan(Photo: Rick Buchanan Photography)

Chinese New Year Celebration Dwarfs USA New Years Eve

Walk into most any store in the week between Christmas and New Years in the US and you’ll find discounted Christmas merchandise next to endless displays of hats, noisemakers, and other New Years Eve paraphernalia.  Plans are set for where to spend New Years Eve, reservations are made, money is spent…but compared to China, Taiwan, and elsewhere, we in the US are rank amateurs.

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends with the Lantern Festival 15 days later, when the moon is once again full.  In between, friends and relatives are visited, prayers are offered for health and good fortune, much food is consumed, fireworks go off, and the color red, believed to be good luck, is everywhere.

Janet Chen, Executive Director of ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, just returned from visiting family in Taiwan and gives us her take on the celebration…

I just returned from a visit to Taipei, Taiwan, where I grew up. While I was not able to stay long enough to actually celebrate the Chinese (or Lunar) New Year (which officially is on January 23rd) I was able to partake in some of the preparations for this most important holiday. The week or two before the actual new year is probably one of the busiest times — for both families and businesses. There are certain foods to buy (including fish which symbolizes fortune, dumplings which represents little “pockets” of gold; and “nien gao” which is a sticky type of glutinous rice that is prepared either sweet or salty. This symbolizes a year of luck). And of course, candy is always a plus. Much of this needs to be bought ahead of time so families have ample treats for visitors who will stop by your home to send good wishes during the first five days of the new year.

This is an especially special year, as we are about to welcome the year of the Dragon, which is usually considered to be one of great luck. I have fond memories having grown up in Taiwan of the Chinese New Year. The strong sense of family, respect for elders, and receiving of red envelopes from our elders (with money!) are longstanding traditions that provide this great sense of cultural identity.

Another perspective comes from Columbus photographer Rick Buchanan, who two years ago experienced his first Chinese New Year.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Taiwan two years ago, during the Chinese New Year holiday. Firstly, It was fascinating for me to experience the difference in culture. As a photographer, this made for endless compelling photographic material as everything was very different, colorful and new and my perspective was fresh and unspoiled. There was a lot more evidence of a new year’s celebration with decorations, such as colorful, festive lanterns, everywhere. While much of the celebration was very similar to the way we celebrate the New Year here in the USA (for example, celebrating with family, celebrating the start of a new year, enjoying traditional foods), it was also very different at the same time. For example there was a much stronger religious component to the celebration with people crowding into temples to worship. Also, the celebrations extend for at least 5 days, much longer than how the US celebrates (we celebrate for one day, watch football, then it’s over). Chinese New Year is a unique cultural event that I feel fortunate to have been able to experience.

You can see more Rick Buchanan’s photos from his time in Taiwan here

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra is celebrating the Chinese New Year this weekend with two concerts called Happy Year of the Dragon.  Chinese pianist Di Wu will perform Chopin’s 1st Piano Concerto.  Guest conductor Rei Hotoda will also lead ProMusica in Mozart’s Symphony No. 33, and music by two young Chinese composers, Huang Ruo and Yao Chen.

Read more about the Chinese New Year here

See some of the decorations and festivities taking place

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