Lunar New Year 2020: Year of the Rat

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People march in the Chinese New Year parade, in Vancouver, on Sunday January 26, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

People march in the Chinese New Year parade, in Vancouver, on Sunday January 26, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

As the Vietnamese say: Chúc mừng năm mới! Happy New Year to those that celebrated the holiday this past Saturday. For me, it’s not only a second do-over on those initial New Year resolutions, but also a time to be surrounded by family and be closely connected to my Vietnamese culture. We said goodbye to the year of the Pig and are ushering in the Rat, the beginning of the 12 zodiac animals.  

Someone who might be born in this zodiac year is very intelligent and adaptive to new situations, according to Huffington Post. The “unknowability” of the rat, however, shows resistance to expressing vulnerability. A person born with this sign may also be masking a lack of self-confidence. Rats are compatible with people born in the Year of the Ox, Dragon or Monkey and are least compatible with those born in the Year of the Horse, Goat or Rabbit.  

Vietnam is one of many countries and Southeast Asian societies that celebrates the first new moon of the lunar calendar, including China, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, to name a few. It is celebrated worldwide, with many different customs and traditions.  

One of the most common traditions, looked forward to by many children, is the receival of red envelopes. It symbolizes good luck and is meant to ward off evil spirits. These envelopes are filled with crisp bills but are not simply handed over. Children have to respectfully receive it by wishing their elders health, luck and prosperity.  


Dancers perform a dragon dance during the Chinese New Year Parade, in Vancouver, on Sunday January 26, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Dancers perform a dragon dance during the Chinese New Year Parade, in Vancouver, on Sunday January 26, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

For my family, we might go out to see a Lion Dance show, a colorful and fun performance. I personally love the rice cakes eaten, called bánh chưng, sticky rice with a meat or bean filling wrapped in banana leaves. Families all over the world have different ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year. 

We asked our UConn community via Instagram how they celebrated with their families, if they did. One commenter said they helped their parents make dumplings while another said they ate hot pot. One student said they watched the CCTV Chinese New Year special and made calls to their family. Above all else, my family specifically cleans the house from top to bottom, symbolizing a fresh start to the New Year. 

For many families, including my own, who have relatives in other countries celebrating the New Year, we would make calls overseas to also wish them well. These calls connect families together from all across the globe. For those relatives that have passed away, my family always lays out fruits and other goodies in front of the altar, alongside sticks of lit incense.  

I’ve always wanted to celebrate Tet, another way of saying Lunar New Year, in Vietnam. I can imagine how beautiful the streets must be, bustling around in celebration, families clothed in colorful traditional dress or ao dai and sharing traditional foods across the table and exchanging stories. Peach blossoms line the streets of North Vietnam while apricot blossoms line the South.The aunties are taking their group photos (if you know you know), the children are comparing how much money they got that year and the fathers are sitting around at their own table sipping drinks.  

Wish someone who celebrates this time of renewal a Happy New Year, and ask them how to offer that greeting in their native language. Again, for the Vietnamese, we say, Chúc mừng năm mới!


Kimberly Nguyen is the associate digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.nguyen@uconn.edu.

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