Columbia residents prepare to celebrate Chinese New Year

Thursday, February 11, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Beginning midnight Saturday, followers of the lunar calendar will welcome the year of the tiger. Of the 12 animal signs in the lunar calendar, tigers represent drama, intensity and change. According to, tiger years have also symbolized world conflicts and disasters in the past.

Whatever the year holds, Chinese residents are enthusiastically preparing for the most important holiday in Chinese culture.

“We usually celebrate this big holiday at home with our families,” said Siu Panay, an employee at Hong Kong Market. “You see, it’s like our Christmas.” 

The lunar New Year starts two lunar cycles after the winter solstice, which usually falls around Dec. 20. The winter solstice marks the beginning of the Spring Festival, a celebration lasting about 15 days. Most of the celebrating, however, is done the night before the New Year begins.

“I burn fireworks with my brother, have dinner with my family and watch the national TV show,” said Li Zhendao, an MU freshman from China, describing his typical New Year's Eve festivities.

China Central Television broadcasts the New Year Gala every year. More than 800 million people tuned in to watch in 2009, according to

Many other Chinese traditions surround the holiday. Children typically receive money from elders in red envelopes. Red is an important color because it means good luck, fortune, happiness and abundance in Chinese culture.

“Older people give money to younger people celebrating they’ve grown up one more year,” Li said.

Another element of the Chinese New Year is the traditional cuisine. Although dishes vary depending on location, Chinese food plays an important role in the celebration.

Siu said the most popular foods are chicken, mushrooms, pork, dumplings, rice balls and fish.

“There is an old Chinese saying: 'Nian nian you yu,'” said Xiong Qianwen, an MU student from China. “It means, 'Every year you have fish.'”

Xiong said the word “yu” has two meanings: surplus and fish. The Chinese eat fish to welcome in the New Year and to bring good luck, she said.

Li said this year would be the first New Year he has spent away from his family. Many international students are finding other ways to celebrate the holiday away from home.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do this year,” said Li. “Perhaps I will go to (MU's) China Night."


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