Students studying at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), far from their homes in China, celebrated the beginning of 2020, the Chinese New Year, and the Spring Festival this past weekend.
The Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, begins on the day of the first New Moon of the year. For many students of Chinese descent, the importance of the Chinese New Year would be similar to Americans' view of holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah.
Those who celebrate the Lunar New Year, do so to welcome the coming of Spring as well as the opportunity for new beginnings and good luck in the coming year.
Each year also has associated zodiac animals associated with it; this year is the year of the Rat, or shǔ (鼠).Much like the Western zodiac symbols, each has special traits for those who happen to be born during that year.
We asked three sophomore students who traveled to the United States from China at the beginning of the academic school year about their favorite traditions and how they celebrated their first Chinese New Year away from family and friends back home.
“We posted the Spring Festival couplet and the word ‘福’ (Fortune) in the dormitory,” said Shuli Lao. “We also had hot pot and dumplings in the dormitory together, which also made me feel the warmth of the Spring Festival in this foreign country.”
The annual Spring Festival is celebrated for the first few weeks of the year beginning with the Chinese New Year. Like many holidays, food and family are critically important to the celebration.
“My favorite tradition during the Spring Festival is to visit relatives and friends,” said Haolin Xu. “There are many relatives who cannot meet with each other very often due to the fact that they may work in a different city/province far away from each other. During the Spring Festival, we eat and celebrate together.”
The students also mentioned other traditions such as setting off firecrackers to welcome the new year, exchanging and collecting red envelopes filled with lucky money and buying new clothes to imply new wishes in the new year.
“For Chinese people, the most important thing for Chinese New Year is the family reunion,” Lao said. “We have a saying: ‘Whether you have money or not, just go home to celebrate Chinese New Year.’”
However, even for those unable to travel back home, the spirit of the Maverick family helped make sure this year's celebration was one to remember.
“Although I couldn’t go back to China for this 2020 New Year, I felt the warmth of the locals of Omaha,” said Riye Qiu. “In class, my classmates said Happy New Year to me in Chinese and gave me some gifts. Although the culture may be different, we have the same heart to celebrate.”
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.