Chinese in Columbia ring in the Year of the Rooster

Wednesday, February 9, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:56 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some might feel the holiday season has come and gone, but it is in full swing for Boone County’s Chinese community. Today, is the first day of the Chinese New Year, which is a major 15-day celebration in China.

Kathy Zhang, an MU graduate student, said the Chinese New Year is similar to widely celebrated American holidays.

“I would parallel Americans’ Thanksgiving to the Moon Festival and Christmas to the Chinese New Year,” Zhang said.

Although this is an important time of the year for Chinese, some of the more than 4,000 Chinese in Boone County find it hard to get into the spirit of the holiday.

Zhang said it’s hard to enjoy the holiday away from her relatives, who live in China. She said because this is the biggest festival in China, spending time with one’s family is an important part of the celebration.

“We miss home a lot; we miss our family. That’s the biggest problem,” Zhang said. “Our families would like us to go back if we could.”

Although Jean Yan of Columbia said she plans to celebrate the New Year with her husband and three sons, she said it is not the same as celebrating in China.

“For the traditional New Year in China, we celebrate within a big family. Here, it is with a small family and maybe you invite friends,” she said.

Others, like MU graduate student Ya-wen Cheng, have decided to play down celebrations of the New Year. Cheng said she wouldn’t be doing anything special to ring in the New Year because of her schoolwork and distance from her family.

“It’s a little hard. I tell myself I don’t want to care about the New Year because I’ll miss my family,” Cheng said. “Some will get together to cele-brate, and some — like me — won’t.”

Besides being far from family, Cheng said the atmosphere is just not the same as in China.

“The feeling is different, I think. In China, the feeling is very high and happy,” she said. “Here, the New Year is different; not every American even knows today is the Chinese New Year.”

Celeste Chen, who works at Great Wall Chinese Restaurant, shares similar sentiments.

“We don’t have that atmosphere because most people don’t celebrate the Chinese New Year,” Chen said. “New Year’s Day here is a normal day because we work. In China, we have at least 10 days off.”

Chen said she would celebrate the New Year with her co-workers at a party after the restaurant closed Tuesday night. Chen said a large meal — including foods like fish, chicken, and dumplings — is part of the traditional New Year’s celebration.

Zhang said other traditions include cleaning one’s house to sweep out bad omens before the New Year. Some people also buy new clothes and decorate their homes. Popular New Year’s festivities include fireworks and gift giving.

“Back in China, the most exciting part of the New Year is the tradition that the older relatives and friends will give children money wrapped in red paper packages for good luck,” Zhang said. “The other exciting part is the fireworks; that’s the heaven for a child during the holiday.”

Although the celebrations of the Chinese New Year encompass a variety of foods, traditions and festivities, the heart of the holiday seems to come down to family

“For me, the New Year is about memories of my family and the most happy and warm atmosphere I ever had in my life,” Chen said.

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