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7th-graders Mike, Si Qi and Ziyi tell us about Chinese New Year’s

“We also celebrate on the 31st of December, but the bigger festival follows the lunar calendar.” “There are usually people in the streets that have these big dragons and lions that they wave around.” “There's this legend that in ancient times there was this monster with a dragon’s head and a lion's body called Nian. He would go to this village, destroy everything, eat all the cattle and stuff and people were really mad, but they couldn't do anything against him. Then this wise old man came and told them that the monster was afraid of the color red, so you should wear red clothes and hang these red banners on the sides of your door and on the top to scare him away. He was also afraid of really loud noises, so firecrackers will scare him away. They did that the following year, Nian ran away, and the years after that they would still do it just to celebrate their victory.” “We use fireworks to scare off evil spirits, so we can start a new year.” “Usually there's fireworks, but some cities don't allow fireworks because of the environment.”

Si Qi, Ziyi and Mike are from different places in China, but they think the way New Year’s is celebrated is more or less the same everywhere in this vast country. “When it's New Year's, you have to eat a lot of meat, like fish, chicken, duck and other meat as well, and at midnight, you have to eat dumplings.” “A lot of New Year's Day is spent preparing for the big feast in the afternoon, usually the entire family prepares.” “All the meat that we eat is associated with sayings that bring luck. For example fish, there is a saying, ‘Nián nián yǒu yú’, which means ‘Surplus year after year’, but ‘fish’ in Mandarin is ‘yú’; it’s not the same word, but it’s pronounced the same.

So there’s some pun with fish and luck? That’s cool. What else happens?
“There’s this big TV show that runs for hours on New Year's Day with talented people from all over China, and it's fun, and everyone watches it.” “The older members of the family will pass down these red envelopes with money in them to the children and the unmarried adults to wish them good luck in their lives. And people also wear new clothes that are usually red.”

Do young people have to do something specific?
“No not really. They just have to be respectful when they get the red envelopes.”

Is it just one day that you celebrate?
“No, it's a long celebration. I think it's 15 days.” “China is pretty big and it's difficult for people to meet up regularly, so on Chinese New Year’s, families come together as a whole to celebrate. The days after the big festival is just about being with your family.”

I guess you can’t go this year because of the pandemic, but are you normally able to go?
“Oh yeah, our family would normally go to my grandma in China because our family lives pretty close together,” says Mike. “We went to China last year.” “I also went back to China last year,” Si Qi and Ziyi echoe him.