- The main piece: Chinese New Year
“Um… so, Chinese New Year is also called Lunar New Year and it’s… I don’t really know why they celebrate it, I guess because they used to use the lunar calendar. But basically, there are 12 cycles of the lunar year or something like that, and each of them has an animal, and the animals cycle through in rounds of 12, and so each year is the year of the something. It’s not super relevant anymore, so I don’t really know what it’s supposed to mean, but every person is born in the year of the something, and I was born in the year of the rabbit. And that’s supposed to indicate certain traits about you, but obviously that’s fake [informant laughs].
“Other things about Chinese New Year, the festivities last two weeks in China and you’re supposed to wish for good fortune and good luck. That’s why people say “Gong hay fat choi.” That’s Cantonese for good luck. Or, not good luck but congratulations on your money. That’s basically what it means.”
- Background information about the performance from the informant: why do they know or like this piece? Where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them? The context of the performance?
While the informant doesn’t necessarily agree with the folk beliefs surrounding Chinese New Year, she still faithfully celebrates it every year with her mother, sister, and grandparents. She learned it from her grandparents while her parents were still in school, and it means more to her because she was closer to her grandparents than her parents during this time. After they moved in with her family in later years, it became even more important to the informant to strictly adhere to the rules of Chinese New Year.
- Finally, your thoughts about the piece
I think that this festival is interesting, because it is an annual festival or celebration, yet the assignment of a year and resultant traits to each person makes it a uniquely individualized annual celebration. Since it follows the lunar calendar and is also known for celebrating the coming of spring, this festival probably originally began as a celebration of a renewed growing season for crops. It could have became more personalized as societies grew less agricultural and needed a way to highlight their differences while still celebrating their unity.
- Informant Details
The informant is an 18-year old Chinese-American female. While she grew up in the southern California area, she spent more time with her grandparents than her parents growing up, and felt that learning their Chinese traditions and language was the main way she bonded with them, while her younger sister never had that experience because her parents were out of school by then.
For another version of this folk festival, see:
“Chinese New Year 2018 – Year of the Dog.” Chinese New Year 2018, 2018,