Weekly Feature

2016-01-27 / Lifestyles

Year of the Monkey

Lunar calendar celebration begins Feb. 8

Jiyuan Yu Jiyuan Yu The Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is a centuries-old festival, which marks the beginning of the Chinese lunar calendar.

The observance is celebrated in various countries and territories that include Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“In celebrating Chinese New Year, we get together with family and friends; we appreciate the good things that happened in the past year and put behind those that were not so pleasant,” said Jiyuan Yu, director of the Confucius Institute at the University at Buffalo, in an email.

Yu added that individuals send one another best wishes for a new beginning. This means happiness or “fu” in Chinese. “Fu is the term that constantly comes up in the Chinese New Year celebration,” he said. “Many Chinese families posted the character of fu at the door, and usually upside down. This means fu dao [or] ‘fu is arrived.’ [In] Chinese, ‘upside down’ and ‘arrive’ have the same pronunciation.”

This will be a Year of the Fire Monkey, which is said to bring the unexpected. The animal is known to be clever, intelligent and mischievous.

The ancient Chinese calendar is divided into 12 months, and the years are organized into cycles of 60. In addition, each consecutive year is named after one of the 12 signs, represented by different animals, along the path of the sun through the cosmos.

The signs were determined by a Chinese legend that featured Buddha, whose teachings became the religion of Buddhism. Buddha asked all the animals to visit him on New Year’s Day. The 12 animals that came each had years named after them, including the tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat and ox. According to chinahighlights.com, the date of the holiday is different each year on the Gregorian calendar. This year, Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 8.

Performers present traditional dances at a previous Chinese New Year celebration at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts. Performers present traditional dances at a previous Chinese New Year celebration at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts. “Monkey is curious and clever, and hence if you are born in the year of the monkey, you are expected to be an intellectual and creative person,” Yu said in the email. “Since Monkey is agile and mobile, people can expect a healthy year, but also a volatile and impatient time.”

Yu gave the examples of holiday dishes that are popular during the holiday, such as dumplings, which symbolize “reunion” or “getting together”; niangao or rice cake; and fish, which symbolizes each year an individual has abundant supply and can leave some for the next.

According to Yu, “‘nian’ sounds the same as ‘year’ and ‘gao’ sounds the same as ‘higher.’” Together, as niangao, they symbolize “moving higher in the new year.”

The Lantern Festival, on the 15th day of the new year, marks the end of the celebration. This is when radiant lanterns of various shapes are viewed and hung in the streets, on tree branches and doors. “When I was a boy, the favorite aspect was good food, and now the most enjoyable aspect is to stay with the family, especially with one’s elders,” Yu said.

A Chinese New Year Celebration Performance will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts, 103 Center for the Arts, Amherst.

The performance, which is presented by the Chinese Club of Western New York and the University at Buffalo Confucius Institute, is free.

According to Yu, the event will include singing, dancing, Chinese folk music, traditional Chinese musical instruments, martial arts and choral works.

The performances are by language students and artists affiliated with UB’s Confucius Institute along with members of the Western New York Chinese Club. Lewiston Porter High School will also be presenting its orchestra and chorus.

“This celebration is for Chinese people, and it is also for many Asian people, and for people in WNY and across America,” Yu said. “It is becoming a global event.

“We are from different cultural traditions, but we are sitting together to enjoy and learn from each other’s culture. This is a beautiful picture, and this is what makes living in Buffalo and in America so great, no matter how cold Buffalo’s weather is.”

Also, a dinner with activities will begin at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at Congregation Shir Shalom, 4660 Sheridan Drive, in Williamsville. Tickets need to be purchased for the dinner.

For more information, visit www.cc-wny.org. email: awalters@beenews.com

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