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Chinese begin celebrations for latest Year of the Monkey

Jan. 22, 2004

By Mimi Wiggins, reporter

Baylor students will ring in the Chinese New Year with dumplings and red envelopes full of lucky money.

The Chinese New Year starts today and will last through Feb. 8.

Chinese New Year is celebrated in China, Taiwan and other places all around the world. In San Francisco, the celebration kicks off with a parade and festival. Other festivals will take place in Houston and Dallas. New year celebrations will include parades, festivals, fireworks, and traditional foods.

According to the Chinese New Year calendar, today is the first day of the year of the monkey. This year is year 4701 on the Chinese calendar, and the monkey is the ninth animal in the Chinese horoscope.

In Chinese tradition, monkeys are clever and skillful and are most compatible with a dragon or a rat. Famous people born in the Year of the Monkey include Harry S. Truman, Julius Caesar and Jennifer Aniston.

The Chinese New Year celebrates the lunar year, or a full year of moon revolutions, as determined by the astronomical patterns of the sun, moon and stars. Each Chinese New Year is associated with one of twelve animals (rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog or pig).

Each animal has superstition associated with it. According to Chinese astrology, people born in a specific year named for an animal will possess the traits of that animal. Many people prefer their children be born in the year of the dragon because dragons are considered lucky. Some Chinese parents do not want their daughters to be born in the year of the ram because it's bad luck.

'Chinese New Year is important to everyone because our world is becoming more global, and we need to understand each other,' Dr. Xin Wang, assistant professor of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and associate director for Asian Studies, said. 'I will try to celebrate the new year with students who are in my classes. We will have dumplings and talk about Chinese traditions.'

Wang said fireworks are lit to chase off the bad of the old year, and friends give lucky money enclosed in red envelopes as a good luck wish. Dumplings are made from different types of meat, vegetables and rice, and they are served at new year's meals.

Lai-Yee Chan, a Mansfield freshman, lived in Hong Kong until her family moved to Texas when she was 6 years old.

'I celebrate Chinese New Year at home,' said Chan. 'On New Year's Eve, I have dinner with my family. We have fish and vegetables and other types of seafood. My dad said you should save some food from the New Year's Eve dinner to eat the first day of the new year, that way you are eating it in both years.'

Chinese New Year is a time for families to celebrate and get together to remember the past years and the years to come.

There are 15 days in the celebration with a different focus, or tradition each day. For example, on the first day of the lunar year, many people will abstain from meat because they believe it will bring long life.

The second day celebrates the birthday of dogs, so people are encouraged to treat dogs with respect. On the seventh day farmers set up a market to display their produce. In Chinese culture the seventh day is considered the birthday of human beings. Lanterns are lit on the night of the 15th day. On other days people pay their respects to relatives, give offerings to the Jade emperor and eat dinner with friends and family.

'You get money in red envelopes from family. The envelopes might contain anywhere from $5 to $100,' Chan said.

According to the office of Information Management and Testing Services, 49 Baylor students are citizens of either Taiwan or China. There are other students who celebrate Chinese New Year, but do not hold citizenship in China or Taiwan.

Baptist Student Ministries encourages everyone to attend the spring festival to celebrating the Chinese New Year 6 p.m., Jan. 27 at the Zachariah and Elizabeth Bobo Baptist Student Center.

Several people will speak and share their Chinese New Year experiences.