Welcome to the Year of the Snake

A Chinese cartoon for the Year of the Snake

Lillian Wu says she and her family always look forward to the Chinese New Year celebration.

“We have lots of people over,” said Lillian, a fifth-grader at Franklin School in Corvallis, Oregon, in an interview with the Corvallis Gazette-Times.  “And we eat a lot of food.  It’s exciting for me.”

This year, the Chinese New Year begins on February 10th.

But the celebrations have already begun.

On January 31st, kids from Franklin School participated in a special show featuring traditional Chinese songs and dances, according to Gazette-Times reporter Raju Woodward.

“The energy is so contagious,” Franklin School 8th grader Jessica Lembke told Woodward.  “It was fun to be a part of something new and different.”

For the Chinese, the year that starts on February 10th will be the year 4711 — the Year of the Snake.

The Year of the Snake comes around every 12 years.

So the last one was in 2001.

If you were born in the Year of the Snake, you’re supposed to be intelligent, wise, rational and logical, according to Chinese folklore.

The Chinese New Year’s celebration lasts for 15 days.

It always starts in late January or early-to-mid February.

The date on our calendar changes from year to year, because China uses a lunar (moon-based) calendar, not a solar (sun-based) calendar like most western cultures.

So the dates on both calendars don’t match up the same every year.

During the New Year’s celebration, Chinese kids get gifts of money in red envelopes.

(Red and gold are considered lucky colors.)

The Chinese also consider it good luck to eat red and gold-colored foods.

And according to chef Martin Yan, it’s customary to serve eight dishes at a New Year’s dinner, because the word for “eight” in Chinese sounds like the word for “to grow.”

Yan says the Chinese serve long beans and Chinese broccoli at the dinner, uncut, in hopes that everyone who eats them will live long lives.

Other New Year’s customs include taking time to honor your elders and your ancestors.

The Chinese also set off fireworks to scare away any bad spirits.

And in many communities, there’s a traditional dragon dance — a long line of people in a dragon costume, dancing in the streets.

(The Chinese consider the dragon a symbol of prosperity, good luck and good fortune.)

The last day of the celebration is known as the Lantern Festival.

People hang paper lanterns outside with candles burning inside them.

They also attach riddles to the lanterns – riddles based on traditional songs, poems, stories and historical event.

Other Asian cultures also celebrate the start of their New Year at this time of year.

In Korea, the celebration is called Sol-nal.

In Vietnam, it’s known as Tet.

And in Indonesia, it’s known as Imlek.

The Chinese New Year is the most festive holiday of the year for many Chinese people.

If you live in a community where there’s a public celebration, check it out, and get a taste of Chinese culture firsthand.