Welcome to the Year of the Rat

The Lunar New Year, the most celebrated holiday in China, has a strong presence in Seattle.

Anais Erbe, Reporter

Around the world, the new year is celebrated in many different ways and at different times.

The Lunar New Year, also known as the spring festival, originated in China and is considered to be the most important holiday in this country.

Ancient legends told that the beginning of the Lunar New Year was to fight against a beast that represents the year. This holiday is considered a time to honor household deities as well as their ancestors. The holiday is dependent on different cycles of the moon, and ends with the first full moon of the lunar calendar. This means that every year, the holiday may shift days depending on the year much like Easter. The holiday celebrates the first new moon of the lunar calendar. This year, the fall festival falls on January 25th and is considered to be the year of the rat.

Traditionally, the preparation for the Lunar New Year begins a couple weeks before the holiday. The goal of preparation is to bring in good luck and eliminate all bad spirits and energy that is lurking from the past year. This usually starts by a tradition called “sweeping of the grounds,” when family’s clean their house to remove all bad luck that may be inside. This is also supposed to appease the Gods during the previous year. Along with cleaning the house, many will get a haircut or start something new. It is important to clean and refresh yourself before the new year.

Promoting good luck is a critical step in preparing for the Lunar New Year as well. Many purchase flower blossoms, Tangerine Trees, Pussy Willows, and Cherry Blossoms. All these flowers are believed to bring in good luck. During the spring festival, many families spend time together watching the spring gala. This is a televised annual show that has many traditional singers and dancers perform.

On New Year’s Day family’s will receive and distribute red envelopes. In these envelopes, there is usually money or small gifts. Following this, the Lantern Festival is celebrated on the last night of the New Year. During this dances and fireworks are all throughout the night. Colorful lanterns light up every house and are displayed all throughout cities. The food eaten includes sticky rice balls, cake, raw fish, and vegetable salad.

Even with this Holiday being an ancient Chinese tradition, it is prevalent in the United States today. Many large cities celebrate by putting on traditional New Year festivals which can include floats, costumes, fireworks, and lanterns. Many Chinese restaurants will serve traditional holiday food during the Lunar New Year season.

In Seattle, specifically, the International District hosts one of the largest celebrations in the region. With support from local businesses in the area there are many different events that take place. There is a traditional lion and dragon dance, martial arts, Japanese Drumming, and many other performances on stages.

This festival is very diverse and is fun for all ages, there are craft stations and many family friendly activities. Along with activities there is a Asian Food Walk that features many traditional New Year foods along with vendors from local businesses.

At Bishop Blanchet, many of our exchange students bring the tradition of the lunar new year to their host families. Many shared that the celebration here and in China during the Lunar New Year is drastically different.

“Even though I don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year as much as I do back home, I still enjoy recognizing the Lunar New Year and participating in some traditions” Said Chuyang Chen.

Chen tries to educate his host family and others here at Blanchet when the topic is brought up.

With the Lunar New Year slowly becoming not as spiritual or significant to the younger generations. This holiday is not sticking to its origins and traditions. Although this holiday is still the biggest holiday in China, many are struggling to keep ancient traditions alive.