POINT OF VIEW — What Chinese New Year means to me and my family this year
Expressing gratitude despite COVID-19
EDITOR’S NOTE: Although holidays are usually a time to celebrate with family and friends, COVID-19 has made that difficult this year. It's having an impact on Asian New Year celebrations across Canada, from Korean New Year to Vietnamese New Year and beyond.
We asked 17-year-old Salina Guo to share how she's celebrating the event despite the pandemic.
Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb. 12 this year, is a time for Chinese families like mine to reunite and spend time together for the purpose of sharing good fortune throughout the year.
People usually celebrate Chinese New Year by cleaning their home, adorning it with red banners, setting off firecrackers and, most importantly, sharing a large feast with family and friends.
Cleaning and decorating your house is a big part of Chinese New Year. (Image submitted by Salina Guo)
When speaking Mandarin with my family, we refer to the holiday as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival.
With my friends I say Chinese New Year. However, the terms can be used interchangeably.
Year of the Ox
Chinese New Year follows both the lunar and solar calendars.
It takes place one to two months after China’s shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.
Because the date of the winter solstice varies between December 21 or 22 every year, there isn’t an exact date for Chinese New Year either.
Each year features one of 12 animals on the Chinese Zodiac, and this year is dedicated to the Ox.
This Chinese New Year decoration is on display at my cousin's house in Henan, China. (Image submitted by Salina Guo)
How we celebrate
In my family, we deep clean the house to get rid of bad luck and welcome the new year.
We also decorate it with red lanterns and place one diamond-shaped paper decorated with the inverted Chinese character fu (福) on our front door.
Fu means “good fortune” in Mandarin, so by turning the paper upside down we are “pouring the fortune into the family.”
These green, naturally-dyed dumplings were made last year by my parents, siblings and me, in preparation for our large evening feast. (Image submitted by Salina Guo)
After dinner on Chinese New Year, my siblings and I bow in front of our parents while saying 恭喜发财! 红包拿来, also pronounced “gōngxǐ fācái! hóng bǎo nà lái” in Mandarin.
This means “Congratulations! Give us the red packets.”
The red packets are envelopes filled with money, which are shared to spread good luck.
The second tradition we do involves making dumplings and putting a coin such as a dime or nickel in one of the dumplings.
It’s said that the person who finds the coin will receive good fortune for the rest of the year.
In Gen-Z terms, it means this year will be “their year.”
Examples of the red envelopes given by my parents, which are decorated with festive greetings and good luck wishes. (Image submitted by Salina Guo)
How this year is different
Traditionally, my family and our close friends make dinner together.
Due to COVID-19, we have resorted to only celebrating in our immediate families.
This hasn’t stopped us from having video calls with family members and friends, sending electronic red packets to one another and filling the dinner table with tons of food.
An ox decoration to represent this year's Chinese Zodiac animal. (Image submitted by Salina Guo)
Chinese New Year gives us the opportunity to share and reflect on the struggles of the past year and, ultimately, strengthen our sense of community.
It’s not the amount of money or gifts you receive that counts. It’s the time we spend together.
This year, I encourage you to give your own red envelopes to the people you love to spread good luck on Chinese New Year!
Let’s celebrate in small gatherings, but with even bigger gratitude.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Submitted by Salina Guo