Atlanta families don't have to travel far to learn about Chinese New Year; there's plenty of information at their fingertips and in the metro area about this year's Year of the Rabbit and the holiday in general. Feb 3, 2011 marks New Year's Eve.
On Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011, from 12pm-4pm, the "Chinese Southern Belle," Natalie Keng, will be on hand to give a taste of Lunar New Year at an event taking place at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, 5600 Buford Hwy. NE, Doraville, GA, 30340, near 285.
Family-friendly activities include a Hands-On Dumplings demonstration, chopsticks races, prizes, snack samples and Chinese calligraphy by Margaret Keng. Check out other Chinese New Year events on the Chinese Southern Belle's blog.
Here' some background on Chinese New Year, as provided through e-mail correspondence by Baotong Gu, director of Georgia State University's Confucius Institute and associate professor, Rhetoric and Composition/English: "For thousands of years, the Chinese have observed a calendar that is based on the changes and movements of the moon. Hence the term "Lunar calendar." Each year, the Lunar New Year's Day falls on a different date on the Western calendar, but in most cases, it's sometime in January or February."
More information about Chinese New Year from Dr. Gu:
What activities can families do together on February 3 to celebrate Chinese New Year?
"Feb. 3 is actually the New Year's Eve, which is a very important holiday in China. Typically, on New Year's Eve, families would have a reunion dinner. Family members who work and live away from home would try to come home for the reunion. Traditionally, the New Year's Eve dinner takes place at home. Nowadays, however, more and more families are having that dinner at restaurants to save the trouble of cooking. In recent years (starting in the early 1980s), a huge tradition on New Year's Eve for most families is to watch a variety show on China's CCTV, which starts typically at 8:00 pm and lasts until about 1:00 am. This show typically features all kinds of entertainment: singing, dancing, Peking opera, comic sketches, standup comedy, acrobatics, martial arts, etc. The performers are often the best or the most popular in the country."
Are there any special New Year's greetings to say or rituals that take place?
"The typical New Year's greetings include "Happy New Year!" "Gong Xi Fa Cai (Wish you good fortune and prosperity)!" Rituals vary widely from region to region and from ethnicity to ethnicity. For example, on New Year's Day, most people would spend time with their family. In some regions, it's customary to visit a temple, often a Buddhist temple, for religious worshipping and for Buddha's blessing for the new year. Then starting with the second day of the New Year, people would visit friends and relatives, which often involve a lot of eating and drinking. As there are 56 ethnic groups in China, these rituals vary widely."
Are there any specific dishes or foods that are typically eaten to usher in the New Year?
"In northern China, the typical dish is dumplings. Part of the activity on New Year's Eve is for the whole family to get together, make the dumplings, enjoy the dinner, and then enjoy the show on TV. In most of the southern regions of China, there may not be a particular dish, but often this dinner features the best food the family would have."
It's the Year of the Rabbit. What does that mean, exactly?
"The Chinese use one of 12 animals to represent each year, and there is a particular order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The year of 2011 is the year of the rabbit, and next year will therefore be the year of the dragon. So 12 years make up a cycle."
Are there any resources you would recommend families tap into to learn more about the New Year (i.e., books, cultural centers, movies, etc)?
"You can find a lot of information on the Chinese New Year simply by searching it on the internet."
Here are a few web sites to check out about Chinese New Year: