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Year of the dragon

International Aggies celebrate Chinese New Year

Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

Chinese new year

Photo illustration by Roger Zhang — THE BATTALION

The traditional Chinese dance team at A&M, Fruit Mix, practices for the Spring Festival performance on Saturday.

恭喜發財, or, "Gong Xi Fa Cai!" is the traditional greeting for the Chinese New Year, meaning,  "wishing you prosperity"

 

The year of the Dragon — the water dragon, to be exact — begins Monday and is one of the most important animals in the zodiac, representing power and superior control.

As many people around the world begin celebrations, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at A&M has been preparing for the occasion and the traditional spring festival.

Jianchao Ge, doctoral geophysics student and president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, said the Chinese New Year is as important to most Chinese students as Christmas is to most Americans.

"It's a new beginning for us," Ge said. "The start of the lunar year is more important to us than the start of the year on January 1st."

The Chinese use a lunisolar calendar, depending on the sun and moon cycles to determine years. Spanning back to the Shang Dynasty in the 14th century, the calendar has been a mainstay in Chinese culture for centuries.

"Students need to know more about the Chinese lunar new year," said Yajie Zeng, freshman general studies major.

The Spring Festival is organized by the Chinese government at the end of each new year celebration and it is an occasion where family and friends come together. The Chinese Students and Scholars Association will put on its own Spring Festival show on Saturday.  

"I think that it is not only important for students, but the entire world to learn more about Chinese culture because China is going to become more and more international," Zeng said.

Many Chinese students feel homesick and use the cultural event to feel more connected in a country that is different from their own.

"When we come here, many of us feel alone, and many people here are very friendly, but our cultures are very different. We cannot share some things," said Dongyi Ye, electrical engineering graduate student. "But during the festival, the Chinese and people who know the Chinese culture come together. We can share it together and with other people."

For many Chinese, family is the most important aspect of all the traditions and events.

"Honestly, the most important thing to do is stay with the family, but it's OK that I'm staying here. This year I will be with many friends, but I will miss my family and friends back home," Zeng said.

With so many students being away from their family, many students have turned to the Aggie family to help them feel at home in a new land.

"I have been here for two years and we view [A&M] as our second family here, and every year around this time we celebrate the Chinese New Year," Ye said. "I found out that more and more people from America and other countries become interested in our culture, and it's our responsibility to share something special to the people with our festival."

Because the dragon is a special zodiac, many expect this year's Chinese New Year celebrations around the world to be among the most illustrious in history. Chinese students said they welcome fellow students, faculty and staff  — regardless of nationality — to join in the festivities.

"I really appreciate you guys on campus because you are our hosts in this country," Ge said. "I have traveled a long distance, and I think that it's the warmth from people here that makes being away from home not so bad. The Spring Festival show here is like therapy for Chinese students and, on the other hand, is here for you guys on campus, for us to share."

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