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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chinese New Year Celebration on Radio Tropicale

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 12-2 pm (est)
WTJU 91.1 FM/Streaming at wtju.net

Please tune in to Radio Tropicale at noon on January 18 as Bruce is joined by guests from the UVa Chinese community for a preview show on Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival.  Spring Festival falls on January 23 this year, one of the earliest dates for this movable feast which, like Carnival before Lent, comes out of a lunar calendar and is the great last celebration preceding the start of spring. 

Spring Festival is the most important festival in Chinese culture, marked by family gatherings with special food, gifts and clothing.  It lasts for 5 days in modern China, where it is also the busiest travel time of the year as people return home.  It is also celebrated wherever Chinese communities have flourished, throughout south Asia (Singapore, Australia, etc.) and across the Pacific to the US and Canada.
For more information on Chinese New Year/Spring Festival:

Four stories from current or recent Chinese students on Spring Festival

1. Jason, a Phd student in Singapore

My family is from Sichuan (Southwestern China, the earthquake province).

My earliest memory of Spring Festival is when I was about 3 or 4 year old, I had a new cotton jacket as a gift. I remembered that because that coat was heavy and my mom was almost packing me into it.

My favorite Spring Festival memory is of the whole family gathering  together to make dumpling. I’ve always been the one watching since I don’t know how to make dumplings but it was warm and fun. For me, Spring Festival is all about happiness.

For Spring Festival 2012, I will celebrate with friends here at Singapore and watch the gala*.

*Gala: On Chinese New Year’s Eve, China Central Television puts on a four-hour long program in celebration of Chinese New Year’s. Among good wishes for the new year, the program showcases Chinese culture with performances ranging from the traditional (such as Beijing Opera and pun-based comedy sketches) to the popular (celebrity performances and, recently, magic shows).

2. Qiyang, a MS Accounting student at UVa

My family is from He’nan (Central China, place of Chinese national origin).

My earliest memory of Spring Festival is the first time I got Lucky Money* from elder family members.

My favorite memory is of fireworks. We boys also played firecrackers, and it was fun to see girls screaming while we set off the firecrackers.

Spring Festival has changed because everything costs more than before. It used to be 100 RMB (15USD) for a huge box of firecrackers, but now it costs double.  Also, fireworks are now controlled by the government, so we don’t get to see it every night during the festival.

For me as a little kid, Spring Festival meant that I could stay overnight for games and eat a lot, both are not permitted by parents unless it is holiday.

I’ve been away from home for Spring Festival for five years. So I guess I will just do what’s on schedule this year - homework or job-searching.

*Lucky money: A Chinese New Year’s tradition. Children – determined by age and marriage status – are given monetary gifts from their elders, who can be anyone ranging from parents and grandparents to extended relations and friends of relations.

3. Di, a MS Commerce student at UVa

My family is from Jiangsu (a Southeastern province near Shanghai; located on Yangtze River Delta).

My earliest memory of Spring Festival is definitely Lucky Money. It was a huge amount for me but I had to kowtow* for it.

My favorite Spring Festival memory is of the Spring Festival Gala. It is the most important TV show held by China’s Central Television. The show lasts over four hours on New Years Eve and gathers the most popular stars in China. As a kid I was always excited about Spring Festival coz there’ll be very good food served during it. Now the festival for me is more of an opportunity for the whole family to gather together and share with each other our life during the past year.

For Spring Festival 2012, Commerce students will hold a party. I will put on traditional Chinese dress, cheongsam**, and perform a song.

For Spring Festival 2012, Commerce students will hold a party. I will put on traditional Chinese dress, cheongsam**, and perform a song.

*Kowtow: Also ketou. A variation on the bow and a sign of deep respect. The person performing the kowtow kneels on the ground and leans over so that his forehead touches the ground. His palms are next to his face, also touching the ground.

**Cheongsam: Also qipao. A traditional body-hugging, one-piece dress for Chinese women. It was made popular in Shanghai in the 1920’s. The male equivalent is known as the changshan, which is a long robe. In some regions, cheongsam can also refer to the male changshan.

4. Liang, a recent graduate from a Chinese university, now an engineer for PetroChina’s Nigeria branch

My family is from Guangxi Province (South China, the Autonomous Region for Zhuang nationality).

My earliest memory of Spring Festival comes from when I was 4, I took a 10h trip to my grandparents’ home for the holiday.

It is a long journey for a kid but everyone was there and there was pretty good scenery in the mountainous area.

I am from a region where several different minorities live, so there are very special Spring Festival food, including a five-color glutinous rice cake*, the colors made by vegetable juice, each standing for a different kind of blessing. It seems that Spring Festival is not as special as before because the old traditions are fading. It’s now more of a time when businessmen make money, because increasing people would like to eat out.

For this Spring Festival we will have a small party with local colleagues and introduce them to the traditions in China, and afterwards I will facetime with my families.

*Glutinous rice cake: Though translated as “cake” because of a lack of an English equivalent, no flour is used. The cake has a solid shape, but has a different texture – smooth if you touch it, but sticky once you begin to chew. It is a popular tradition to eat glutinous rice cakes because they are so sticky; and the Chinese word for “sticky,” nian, is a homonym to the Chinese word for “year,” nian. 

Submitted by Bruce Penner, WTJU Folk

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