The Year of the Ox

Boldly charges forward in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

By Dylan Lee, Ken Li, Dariush Mostoufi and Minsoo Kim.

On Friday Feb 12th, many will welcome the Year of the Ox. It marks the first day of the lunar calendar, which begins the day after the first new moon appears between 21 January and 20 February each year. In East Asia, celebrations of lunar new year last for 16 days, starting on the eve of the new year and finishing on the 15th day, on which the traditional lantern festivals take place. The lunar new year is also celebrated in many Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia and also by Chinese and Asian communities across the world, including in the US. Celebrations are normally vibrant, with fireworks, parades, dancing and dragon costumes on display. This year, however, the major events have been cancelled and moved online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But at WSP, our high school International Students Association brought the spirit of prosperity, good health and fortune to usher in an auspicious Year of the Ox. Our international students decorated the high school entrance way with bright red lanterns to drive off bad luck. 

Lunar New Year good wishes are usually posted in pairs, as even numbers are associated with good luck and auspiciousness in Chinese culture. Couplets are brush works of Chinese calligraphy, in black ink on red paper affixed on the two sides of a doorway both usually-seven-character lines of the couplet are affixed on the two sides of a doorway. A four-character idiom of well wishes is often added to the crosspiece of the door frame as well. Many are poems about the arrival of spring as well as well wishes such as harmony or prosperity. Decorative red paper cutting of images of an auspicious plant or animal are glued on classroom windows. Each animal or plant represents a different wish.

Preparation of red packets for WSP High School assembly.

Our high school community has a diverse representation of several Asian communities like Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Malaysians who brought a piece of their own heritage and culture to this year’s lunar celebrations. Ken (China), Minsoo (Korea) and Dariush (Vietnam) shared stories on how lunar celebrations are observed in their cultures and prepared red packets for the entire high school and middle school students. 

Ken’s reflection on Chinese New Year

In China, the term “pass year” is used for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). The word “Year” in Chinese means monster. To combat this monster, the Chinese hang “good luck” wishes on red paper on the door and use fireworks as a belief that the beast fears red and fire.

The Chinese zodiac features 12 animals in the sequence of Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each animal represents a different “personality”. According to legend, people held a conference with all the animals, informing them that they would pick the 12 to represent the zodiac.

The Chinese new year celebration centers around eating, eat again, and then eat even more! Our tradition is to have a different main courses everyday from the 1st day of the New Year to the 15th day of the New Year, from Jiao Zi (dumplings),noodles, spring rolls, sticky rice cakes, and Tang Yuan (stuffed rice balls); each food has a meaning, for instance, Jiao Zi looks like gold, implying a wealthy year ahead. Besides eating, young people visit older family members and kids are blessed with a red pack of “lucky” money. And then, people gather and eat again. leading to a lot of advertisements about fitness right after the Chinese New Year holiday.

Minsoo’s reflection on Seollal.

Seollal, or Korean Lunar New Year, 설날 is the most celebrated holiday in South Korea. It’s celebrated not only to mark the passage into a new year, but it is also a time for families to catch up with each other, pay respect to ancestors and to feast! Celebration lasts for three days, starting the day before and ending the day after the Lunar New Year. During the week leading up to Seollal, Koreans shop for gifts to give family members. Gifts include fresh fruits, ginseng, honey, gift baskets with favorite goodies for their loved ones.

Dariush’s reflection on Tết.

The Vietnamese new year also known as Tết, is the most important annual celebration in the Vietnamese culture. It is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year. Many people prepare for celebrations by cleaning the house and preparing special holiday food. Customs are practiced during the new year are visiting family, honoring ancestors, giving lucky money to children. Vietnamese people usually return to their families during Tết. Some return to worship at the family altar or visit the graves of their ancestors in their homeland. They also clean the graves of their family as a sign of respect. Although Tết is a national holiday among all Vietnamese, each region and religion has its own customs. Personally, I usually go down to LA where we celebrate with our family for the new year. 

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