Saratogans celebrate Chinese New Year

February 11, 2009 — by Kevin Mu and Anna Shen

Characterized by deafening firecrackers, hong baos (red envelopes) stuffed with money, delicious food and the color red everywhere, Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, is the most important holiday in Chinese culture, symbolizing a fresh start and a new beginning to one’s life.

At the stroke of midnight on Chinese New Year, the atmosphere is ablaze and filled with life. The holiday may not be as tangible in Saratoga, as Chinese New Year isn’t even an official holiday in the United States, but many students and their families have found ways to make this special holiday just as memorable by spending it with their loved ones.

Sophomore Gavin Chu’s family celebrated the start of the lunar year, the year of the Ox, by having an enormous dinner at a restaurant with his extended family. His grandparents even traveled to Saratoga from Taiwan for the festivities.

“We have really big dinners [to bring in the new year],” said Chu. “My grandparents came over, so we had a big celebration with us all together. It’s really crazy but at the same time a wonderful experience to get to reunite with everyone.”

Many students’ favorite part of this holiday is receiving money-filled hong baos, a longstanding tradition in the Chinese culture.
“[Chinese New Year] is important to me,” said Chu. “The best part of it is getting red envelopes.”

Sophomore Alison Shen commemorated this holiday by preparing a gigantic meal with her family. Afterwards, they celebrated by playing “Guitar Hero.” Shen believes that people don’t necessarily have to follow tradition to celebrate a great Chinese New Year.

“Chinese New Year is a great way for my family and I to get together and just have a fun time,” said Shen.

Students and teachers also found ways to celebrate and learn about the holiday together in the Chinese classes. The Chinese department hosted a week of games, artwork and appetizing dishes during lunches.

“Last year, whenever we had food, people would just focus on the food, stay there, eat all the time and join the activities,” said Chinese teacher Miriam Fan. “We want people to join more activities.”

Chu, who attended the event, feels “it was a lot of fun” spending the whole class period with his classmates in honor of Chinese New Year.

On Feb. 6, the Saratoga staff gathered in the cafeteria, which was decorated with red lanterns and tablecloth, for a taste of the festivities. A Chinese New Year luncheon, organized by parents, consisted of Chinese dishes such as walnut shrimp and egg rolls.

English teacher Erick Rector thoroughly enjoyed the feast and believes that food is a great way to experience a different culture.

“Personally, I’m very fond of food,” said Rector, “and I think the best way to share a culture is through things like festivals and special holidays, and a key component of that is food.”

Science teacher Lisa Cochrum looks forward to the luncheon every year. For her, Chinese New Year at Saratoga is a time for everyone to celebrate or learn about a different culture.

“I think it is extremely important for American students to be exposed to the numerous cultures around the world, and this is one way to increase their knowledge,” she said. “It is particularly important since we have so many students who have a Chinese heritage.”