Chinese New Year celebrations take place across Pittsburgh
Perhaps your New Year’s resolution — to go to the gym every day, or to spend less time on Facebook — hasn’t been going as well as you hoped. Well, luckily, there is another new year approaching to give you the chance to renew your resolutions. This year, the Chinese New Year takes place on Thursday, Feb. 3.
The date for the Chinese New Year varies each year, as it is determined by the Chinese lunisolar calendar, rather than the Western world’s Gregorian calendar. The Chinese New Year, sometimes referred to as the Lunar New Year, usually occurs on the second new moon after the winter solstice. This upcoming year will be the Year of the Rabbit, which occurs every 12 years. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are said to be artistic, gracious, lucky, and soft-spoken.
The Chinese New Year is not exclusively a Chinese celebration; it is also celebrated in many other Asian countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In Vietnam, the Year of the Rabbit is translated as the Year of the Cat, due to the similarity between the Chinese symbol for rabbit and the Vietnamese word for cat.
According to Chinese legend, the first Chinese New Year celebration came about as a result of a small village’s attempt to rid itself of a mythical beast called Nien. Nien would come to the village the first day of every year and terrorize the village by devouring their livestock, crops, and children. One year, the villagers noticed that a little child wearing red had scared Nien away; they realized that the beast was afraid of the color red. Therefore, the following New Year, they hung red paper lanterns all around the village and put red spring scrolls on the doors and windows. They also lit firecrackers, with hopes that the noise would further scare the beast. From that year on, the villagers never saw Nien again.
The Chinese New Year has a host of traditional practices, such as giving the younger generation red envelopes containing money. Wearing red is a common practice, as is setting off fireworks. Dragon and lion dances are also common; the aggressive faces of either animal, performed to the deafening sounds of symbols, are intended to ward off evil spirits.
There is a large Chinese community present on Carnegie Mellon’s campus; last school year, 600 graduate and undergraduate students were citizens of China, according to Carnegie Mellon’s 2009–10 Factbook. Carnegie Mellon’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) is one organization designed to help to these international students. “[The organization] helps new students start their lives in Pittsburgh, build a better community for Chinese students and scholars and contribute as a multicultural student organization at Carnegie Mellon,” according to the association’s website.
Awareness of Roots in Chinese Culture (ARCC) is another student organization geared toward students of Chinese heritage; it hosts events throughout the school year designed to promote Chinese culture in the larger university community. One of its upcoming events is “One Night in Beijing,” an evening filled with Chinese cultural performances and Asian food. For those interested in emceeing the event, ARCC will hold auditions this Saturday at noon. In addition, groups interested in performing at the event should email Allison Ko (asko@) by Feb. 7.
Chinese New Year at Carnegie Mellon
Given the size of Carnegie Mellon’s Chinese community, it should not come as a surprise that there are multiple events happening on campus in order to celebrate the Chinese New Year. This past Saturday, ARCC hosted a dinner with authentic Chinese dishes in honor of the holiday. “50 or 60 people were there.... They had a lot of good food and served us a lot of authentic dishes. Last year they had a lot of different performances before the dinner,” Cindy Wang, a junior in the Tepper School of Business, said.
The Chinese Studies program is also hosting a celebration of the new year this Friday at 5 p.m. in Porter Hall. The event will include Chinese food, a talent show, calligraphy demonstration and practice, Chinese games, and karaoke.
In addition, the Lunar Gala, named in honor of the Chinese Lunar New Year, traditionally takes place on the weekend of the Chinese New Year and begins with a celebration of Chinese culture. Last year, the gala began with three dances performed by members of the Oriental Star Dance School and displayed paper lanterns and served Chinese dumplings as a nod to Chinese culture.
Chinese New Year in Pittsburgh
Although Pittsburgh might not be the first city that comes to mind when one thinks of globalization and diversity, Pittsburgh in fact has a vibrant Chinese community. According to GlobalPittsburgh.org, waves of Chinese immigrants have been coming to Pittsburgh since the 1960s to settle down and study. The Pittsburgh Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA-Pittsburgh) promotes Chinese culture throughout Pittsburgh and organizes groups such as the OCA Youth Performance Ensemble, which is a teenaged ensemble that performs Chinese dances and other Chinese folk arts.
OCA-Pittsburgh is hosting a banquet in honor of the new year on Feb. 17 at the Syria Shriners Center in Cheswick. The banquet, which has been an annual event since the 1980s, will include a lion dance from the OCA Youth Performance Ensemble, an Indian Bollywood Dance, and a Japanese Taiko drum performance.
Closer to Carnegie Mellon’s campus, the University of Pittsburgh’s Chinese American Student Association and the Vietnamese Student Association are hosting a new year’s celebration featuring games, a fashion show, and Chinese and Vietnamese food.
If you would rather celebrate the new year on your own time, there are plenty of Asian restaurants scattered about Pittsburgh. On Craig Street alone, there are multiple Chinese restaurants. Orient Express is right next to Starbucks on the corner of Forbes Avenue and Craig Street. Lulu’s Noodles is beloved for its bubble tea, but further up the street there is also Little Asia, where the food is inexpensive and more authentic than the other two restaurants.
In Shadyside there is China Palace, where one can get a large variety of high-quality food at a reasonable price. If you can afford a slightly higher price range, try going to Soba, a more modern restaurant in Shadyside. Through Feb. 3, the restaurant is offering a special Chinese New Year menu that includes a four-course meal for $35.
For Asian food that isn’t necessarily Chinese, the Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill serves authentic Taiwanese and Thai food, in addition to bubble tea, all at a reasonable price.
Whether you are of Chinese heritage, have an interest in Chinese culture, or are merely looking for an excuse to indulge in some delicious Chinese food, the upcoming Chinese New Year is a holiday rich with heritage that provides an opportunity to celebrate the new year once more.