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This week marks the beginning of a new year and a grand celebration in China, and for many of those around the world who follow the lunar calendar. KSMU’s Shane Franklin reports.
The streets throughout China are lined with red: red signs, red banners. Seas of red-clothed celebrants cheer and dance with the smell of sulfur and smoke lingering after each series of crackling booms. Fireworks, dragon dances and family all converge at midnight on the Eve of the Spring Festival. Also known as the Chinese New Year, this celebration is the largest of all Chinese festivals. It’s not limited to the streets of China though; the Spring Festival is also celebrated right here in the Ozarks.
Dr. Weirong Schaefer, the Coordinator for Ancient Arts and Letters at Missouri State University is a Chinese native, and has insight into the festival’s ritual.
“Usually it’s the family getting together, they have a big dinner. Usually we eat symbolic Chinese food like dumplings and fish…some other sticky rice cakes...and they all have symbolic meanings.”
She says that the sticky rice cakes are a symbol of the family's unity--thus, the idea of "sticking together."
This idea is not lost on Jim Baker, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at MSU, who is responsible for managing the university's China programs.
“Family is probably the most important thing in Chinese culture.”
With family being the key element of the celebration, many local Chinese celebrants must find a way to cope with being so far away.
“All in all they seem to handle it quite well, but obviously they miss family. I think that’s kind of a heightened feeling this time of year.”
One grad student at Missouri State University, Qin Tingting, explains.
“We usually celebrate Chinese New Year at home, because it is a family event. Then all your relatives will get together and make dumplings together.”
The celebration here in the Ozarks can be bitter sweet.
“A lot of my friends and I will just stay at home, and call home for like three hours to call every relative to say Happy New Year to them. So the feeling is pretty different.”
The strong tie to family is something that both the Chinese and Ozarks cultures have in common, and when celebrating a new year, this commonality is especially evident.
For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.