Residence: Los Angels
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: Chinese
Context: XZ is a 25 year old from Wuhan China. She is a graduate, international student at USC studying marketing and communications. She is also my friend and coworker. I decided to call her and ask her how she and her family celebrate New years.
YM: Tell me about your new years
XZ: Our new year is lunar New Years
YM: What do you guys do for new years? How do you guys celebrate ?
XZ: The “year” in Chinese is actually a monster, so on New year eve, the family will gather around, the elder will give children a red envelope with money because that money is called “ya sui qian” meaning: suppress evil; and when the new year come, every family will shoot off firecrackers to scare the “year” monster away
YM: that’s interesting.. Where did this monster come from ?
XZ: So some say it came from deep sea and the others say it lives inside the mountain
YM: when do you guys celebrate again?
XZ: our official celebration starts from Lunar new year eve and will last until Lunar year’s January 15th
YM: Do you believe in this monster, what are your personal thoughts?
XZ: Personally I don’t believe it, and most of Chinese don’t believe it. Maybe little kids will…like western kids believe in Santa. But all the traditions are around the story, and I love the family getting together and applying those customs makes me feel a sense of the sacred to mark closure and restart. Although the government has banned firecracker because it causes to much air pollution and sound pollution, which I actually agree with it… and I believe receiving red envelope is all kids favourite part, friends sometimes compete with each other to see who received the most of money
YM: aww that’s really nice, thank you for sharing
Background info: XZ has celebrated Chinese New Years since she was a child, and even now that she’s been far away from home she still celebrates. She’s from Yiyang in Hunan Province, China.
Analysis: XZ’s new year seems to be based on a Chinese legend about a monster named Nian who would terrify the villagers and eat children at the end of the lunar year. The new year’s celebration seems to be about defeating this monster and starting a new year free of a ferocious monster. This legend seems to bring a symbolic meaning for chinese new year, like XZ mentioned for her its a “sense of the sacred to mark closure and restart.” From my research in the story when an old man got rid of the monster, red papers, firecrackers, and candles were found. This is why new years are celebrated with red envelopes and the firecrackers. I find it really interesting how in Chinese culture new year one celebrates the defeat of something that was bringing calamity to the land, whereas American new year one celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. One is based on a legend and the other is based on a religious myth.