News Detail

Starting Anew: Celebrating the Lunar New Year

By Rae Weeks, Chinese Teacher
Jan 25, was the 2020 Lunar New Year. The celebration of the Lunar New Year lasts for 15 days, ending with the lantern festival. Every year, after intense preparation, there are days of colorful festivals, parades, dragon and lion dances, fireworks displays, family gatherings, visits to friends and relatives, and the largest human migration around the world to travel home to attend reunions. Within China, there are 3.7 billion people on the road during this time.

One of the most important aspects of Lunar New Year is the Reunion Dinner. This year, my dad came to visit us and celebrate. We made dumplings together. My dad put one coin in one dumpling. Whoever finds the coin would have good fortune for the entire year. We also made a whole fish dish. Fish is a must at the table on Lunar New Year because the word 魚 (yú) has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for “abundance” or “surplus.” We also exchanged oranges because they are symbols of gold and wealth. For my children, the most exciting thing about the Lunar New Year is to receive red envelopes from their grandparents, which contain money that will bring them good luck.

Growing up, I spent every Lunar New Year with my parents, until I left home and moved to Toronto for graduate school. I still remember the new year of 2002. A group of Chinese students gathered in our little dorm room. We made Chinese dishes together. None of us had enough time, or money, to go back to China to see our families. As far as I could tell, there was no celebration or recognition of the Chinese New Year beyond Toronto’s Chinatown.

I am happy to see the changes that have taken place over the past decade. It is exciting to see Lunar New Year celebrations in major cities throughout North America and all over the world, including right here in Washington D.C. I’m also proud to introduce this most important Chinese holiday to the Cathedral community. When I had dumplings with my family, I was the one who found the lucky coin. Knowing that one day, my children might study or work in other states, or even other countries, I made a single wish: “I wished that my whole family would be reunited every Lunar New Year, for all the new years to come.”

The family gathering and the reunion dinner is very important for many holiday celebrations in many cultures, because it is a meal that expresses the unity of the family and love and care for each other. During the gathering, we express our acceptance and forgiveness of each other. True meaning in life is found in love and relationships. Science has discovered that those of us who live the longest and enjoy healthy lives are those with meaningful relationships. It is not enough to keep fit, go to the gym, or keep a healthy diet. What is of utmost importance is building good relationships with others. During the Lunar New Year, we visit each other to renew ties and friendships, especially with those whom we have not seen for quite some time. It is a time to reach out and to build ties with others.

We are happy to leave the old year behind, the year of the pig. We have managed to survive the exams and challenges of the previous year. As we begin another Lunar New Year, the year of the rat, will we be able to face the challenges that lie ahead of us?

The rat is the first in the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. They are extremely social and affectionate animals. They take care of injured and sick members in their group. Without companionship, rats tend to become lonely and depressed. The year of the rat symbolizes energy, movement, companionship, and creativity. Carrying these qualities will help us face challenges and have a successful year. Where there is love, the celebration of the Lunar New Year will be joyful and meaningful. Let every meal be an expression of love, care, concern, and reunion. Let every meal also be an expression of acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness. I wish you have a happy and blessed Lunar New Year and lantern festival!
Located in Washington D.C.,  St. Albans School is a private, all boys day and boarding school. For more than a century, St. Albans has offered a distinctive educational experience for young men in grades 4 through 12. While our students reach exceptional academic goals and exhibit first-rate athletic and artistic achievements, as an Episcopal school we place equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.