The Year the Rat Returns The Year of the Rat Returns

Finding a way to merge cultural traditions

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)— For one night, students and guests from SUNY-ESF joined together to celebrate the year of the rat, ringing in the Chinese Lunar New Year. 

The celebration in Chinese culture lasts 15 days. Each New Year is symbolized by a zodiac animal, an ancient form of worship that started in the Qin Dynasty over 2,000 years ago. The zodiac cycle of animals repeats every 12 years, each rotation beginning with the rat. 

The rat represents the dawn of a new day, a sign of wealth and surplus. People born in the year of the Rat are very clever, optimistic and energetic. To celebrate, the International Student Association draped the room in red, an associated meaning to “Good luck belongs to you,” said Lin Wu, a student studying at SUNY-ESF from Beijing, China. 

The occasion merged historic Chinese practices and traditions like the performance of the Beijing Opera. The Opera has been a staple of China for over two centuries, using elements of singing, music and dancing. 

Calligraphy stations located around the room taught students and guests the practice of Clerical Script writing, one of the treasured ‘four arts’ of Chinese culture. Starting in the Han Dynasty, Clerical Script writing was used to unite the many languages of China. 

As guests parted for the evening, they were sent off with a Nian, a red pocket that donned the words “good luck” in calligraphy. Each Nian, also known as “New Year’s money,”  included two chocolate coins to represent the long standing Lunar New Year tradition to ward off evil spirits. 

For Wu, the occasion had a deeper meaning “we want to let the whole world know our cultures, about China, know us.” Wu added that the connection was a larger statement of China’s growth as a country. The Chinese Lunar New Year celebration concludes with the Lantern Festival on Feb. 8.

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