Commemorating the Lunar Eclipse, the Chinese New Year is a two-week long celebration that begins with the new moon and lasts until the full moon arrives for the festival of lanterns. This holiday began when thousands of villagers defeated the mythical beast, Nian (“year”), that awoke the night before the New Year. Afraid of loud noises, bright lights and the color red, villagers used these things to chase the beast away.
“Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in Chinese-speaking countries,” Mandarin Chinese teacher at Woodbury and East Ridge High Schools FangJu Lin says. “It is comparable to the significance of Christmas in Christian culture.”
Honoring the traditional Chinese calendar, this holiday focuses on ushering out the old year to bring forth good fortune and prosperity through the passage of time represented by the 12 zodiacs: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Used to tell your fortune for the year, the sequence of the animals is representative of the order in which they arrived at the Jade Emperor (or Buddha’s) palace thousands of years ago.
2021 is the year of the ox, which represents the yin force of the Earth (one of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water) within the 60-year lunar cycle. As the second zodiac sign in the series of 12, the ox signifies positive characteristics like honesty dedication and persistence.
Woodbury is celebrating Chinese New Year is many ways, including education, decorations and activities.
Woodbury High School
Teaching her students about the history of the celebration, Lin also works to spread it beyond the classroom and throughout the school through decorations, activities and a traditional dragon line dance in the cafeteria during the lunch. Students are encouraged to dress in red and carry around confetti poppers or noise makers, to scare off the beast of course.
Salem Lutheran of Woodbury Church
On the Saturday closest to the New Moon, Salem Lutheran Church holds a community celebration equipped with authentic Chinese food, scripture reading, Chinese calligraphy, games and a lantern festival.
Honoring the Chinese families in their church, preschool and community, former preschool teacher and outreach coordinator for Salem Lutheran Church Melanie Achey says that their celebration is a way to “let them know that we care about them and that we want to learn from them and their culture.”
Given the effects of COVID-19, the Salem Lutheran Church celebration will take a different approach to ensure the safety of its members. As a virtual event, Achey says will create an at-home packet equipped with crafts, decorations and coupons to a local Chinese restaurant. Families will be encouraged to take pictures and videos of them celebrating to put in a slideshow to share with all.