Enter the ‘Year of the Dragon’

New Year’s is among the most highly-anticipated holidays in almost every culture. And the Chinese, in particular, anticipate New Year’s as much as any other Americans.

African-Americans or Caucasian Americans celebrate the start of a new year at church or in the presence of fireworks. Some families celebrate with dinners.

The Chinese culture also has special traditions.

“As a family we always celebrate the Chinese new year because it is our culture,” said Mary-Ann Mina, a Florida State marketing student who is also studying Chinese language and culture. “The past few years we’ve spent the New Year in China Town, NY with other family members.”

The Chinese year 4710 begins on January 23, 2012, and the celebration can last from five to 15 days.

Even American-owned businesses are marking the occasion with special displays on storefronts and decorations.

“We try to have a theme each month and because this month begins the Chinese New Year and year of the dragon we wanted to be festive by putting the banner out front,” said Paul Brock, co-owner of Tallahassee Nurseries on North Thomasville Road.

The banner depicts a Happy Chinese New Year Dragon.

The Chinese New Year celebration is actually referred to as the “Spring Festival” or Chun Jie. “One of the most popular myths or stories about the Chinese Spring Festival celebration is one about the arrival of the beast called Nian, which literally means the word “year Mina explained. “In context the beast would represent the ‘coming of the year.'”

Several FSU student organizations hosted a Lunar Banquet on Saturday, Jan. 21 in the Student Union Ballroom. The Asian American student union and their affiliate organizations: the Chinese and Culture Association, the Vietnamese student Association, and the Korean American Student Association, all cultures of which celebrate the Lunar New Year in their own, way are hosted the event on Saturday.

The Chinese New Year is also known as Lunar New Year, because Chinese-Americans configure the dates according to a lunar calendar. Each of the months begins on the darkest or lightest day, according to the phases and shifting of the moon.

The calendar is adjusted to the length of the solar year by the addition of extra months at regular intervals. The years are arranged in major cycles of 60 years. Each successive year is named after one of 12 animals. These 12-year cycles are continuously repeated.

The Chinese New Year is a holiday that’s celebrated not just worldwide, but locally also.

“Tourists come from all over New York and other cities for the festivities and parade. The main attraction that people come to see is the 100-foot dragon that the men carry in the parade that represents the year of the dragon,” said Jeff Honchoing, a resident of Tallahassee, who was born in China.

Honchoing explained that the mythology behind Chinese New Year. In ancient time, Buddha, who is a religious teacher from the Indian subcontinent, asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year and 12 of the animals came. Buddha named a year after each animal and announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality.

The Chinese years are named after these animals (including a dragon, rabbit, rat and pig), which were commonly called the 12 zodiac animals in western society. This year is the year of the Chen, or dragon.

“In my hometown of Jinan, China, The New Year is a time of family reunion. Our family would gather at each other’s house for visits and cook meals with different Chinese dishes,” explained Honchoing.

This holiday may be overlooked, but to the Chinese-American culture it’s the most important and most celebrated holiday.

“To be honest I’ve never heard of The Chinese New Year, I thought the years in China were the same as America,” said Brandi Ward, 19, a FAMU freshman pre-pharmacy student from Waycross, GA.

Among the Chinese culture, these festivities and rituals are their way of bringing in the New Year. Americans make New Year’s Resolutions and Chinese-Americans pray and write notes to Buddha that are believed to bring good luck throughout the year.