The New Year: Our February Series
Childhood memories of fireworks in Yunnan; a noisy New Year's Eve prank involving a gong, a mallet, and red envelopes; an adorable baby cow. The artwork and writing in our February series usher in the New Year in creative and explosive ways.
"The Spring Festival" by Sophie Wang gives us the lowdown on the traditions and history of the Spring Festival through stories, facts, and cross-cultural comparisons.
"Lunar New Year Prank" by Brendon Wang zips with fantastical wit as it recounts one naughty child's New Year's Eve shenanigans.
The Year of the Ox by Grace Li offers up a meticulously-drawn bovine mascot for the coming year.
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The Spring Festival
The Spring Festival, more commonly known as Chinese New Year, is the most important holiday in Chinese tradition. The Spring Festival marks the beginning of a new year in the lunar calendar which ancient China used. Unlike the Gregorian calendar used by most of the world, the lunar calendar is based on the moon, so is often changing, adding and subtracting months as needed. This is why the date of the Spring Festival is inconsistent, though it is always in the range of the end of January and the beginning of February.
Though the Spring Festival celebrates the new year, many activities actually take place on the previous night. On the eve of the Spring Festival, almost every single family in China would gather, and eat a feast of union. Different families will have their different traditional foods, ours are dumplings and babao (8-treasure) rice.
The most important color of the Spring Festival is red. When the holiday approaches, people will wear red clothes, tape red paper cuttings to the windows, and hang couplets. People would hang the character “Fu” (good fortune) on the door. In the morning of the Spring Festival, kids will get lucky red envelopes under the pillow containing money as a ward against evil.
Another important tradition of the Spring Festival is fireworks. My first memory of fireworks is when I was really young, maybe 4 or 5, at my grandparents’ in Yunnan in southwest China. I used the kind in the shape of a stick, if you light the end, it would sizzle, and bright sparks would jump around it. This kind of fireworks is really fun, because you could wave it around in the air and draw shapes with it. Afterwards, the smoke it emits would stay in the same shape for quite a while against the dark night. The bigger fireworks are terribly loud, but once they explode, there is no other sight like it: colorful light exploding in circles. Even though I always cover my ears, my heart still thuds with every explosion.
There are arguments that the holiday shouldn’t be called “Chinese New Year” because China isn’t the only country to celebrate it. But in Chinese it is simply called “chun jie”, which translates to “spring festival”. It is the western world that named it Chinese New Year.
Regardless of what it is called, the Spring Festival is a time of joy, when families unite, and celebrations are thrown.
Sophie Wang is a seventh-grader at Pine Lake Middle School.
Lunar New Year Prank
A long, long time ago, before your grandfathers were born, there were two children. On the Lunar New Year's Eve of 1532, the older child told the younger child that he was getting the gong and waking the family up with a bang.
"I don't think that it is a good idea, but it sounds like a great prank," said the younger child.
Later that day, the elder child went into town to buy a gong. He had been saving money since the Lunar New Year of 1531. He went into ten shops until he found a gong with a price of 46 US dollars. He hid the gong, which was arduous because of the gong's size.
When the younger child was eating, he almost spilled the beans. The older brother kicked his leg to prevent him from telling the family about the prank.
"OWWWWWW!" cried the younger child. "Why did you do that? It hurts!"
Soon the children were fighting over nothing. The older child threw an uppercut then the younger child threw a jab.
"STOPPPPPPP!" yelled the mom. "WHY ARE YOU FIGHTING?" The mom was raging.
The children instantly stopped because they saw their mom that angry. They knew that the mom was super serious.
"The next time I see you guys fighting, you will need to clean the whole house." The mother calmed down.
Both children knew that cleaning the house would take ages because the residence was big, at least one million square feet. Nobody would want to do that labor.
That night, the older child woke up at 2 A.M. to set up the prank. He placed earplugs in his ears and the younger child's ears. After that, he moved the gong in front of the room where his family was sleeping. Suddenly, he realized that he forgot to buy a mallet! None of the stores were open, so he had to make his own. He got a hammer and started making one until he realized that he had the answer in his hand for the whole time.
He finalized the plan and prepared to bang the gong. Wham! Smack! Boom! The older child ran as fast as a cheetah to his bed.
The next morning, the house was decorated with numerous Lunar New Year ornaments. The older child got red envelopes with 70 US dollars. He was super happy until that evening. That evening while he was eating, he got in trouble.
"Yesterday at night, someone rang a gong and woke me up," said the dad. "The person who did it will be in trouble and also get bad luck."
The older child started to regret his decision. I'm getting terrible luck, thought the older child. "I did it as a prank," said the older child.
"You're in hot water!" exclaimed the dad while the older child ran away.
The Year of the Ox