BY BRANDAN BLOM // PHOTOS BY EMILY ARONICA // FEB. 3, 2014 //
According to ancient Chinese legend, there was once a monster named Nian that came to Chinese villages every new year to terrorize the locals. One year, the villagers dressed up as a lion to scare off the monster.
The lion dance carries great symbolism and meaning; it is believed by some to bring good fortune, prosperity and longevity.
Last Friday, Jan. 31, Curry enjoyed a taste of this tradition thanks to a Chinese New Year celebration at the Student Center. Friday marked the beginning of the Chinese “year of the horse.”
The event was sponsored by the foreign language department and Student Activities, and featured members of the MIT Asian Dance Team performing the lion dance. There was also a trivia contest and a Chinese calligraphy station where students could get their favorite words written in Mandarin.
“We want Curry students to know that there is a whole other side of the world that celebrates a different calendar and that they have incredibly ancient traditions that would be helpful for us to know,” said Communication Professor Brecken Chinn, who teaches Mandarin at Curry and helped organize the event.
According to Chinn, the official calendar in China is the same as the solar-based calendar used in Western society and most of the world. However, in China and certain other Asian countries, the Han calendar—it’s now the year 4712!—is used for special occasions and holidays.
Dates aside, Chinese New Years celebrations don’t differ much from American ones. Families and friends gather over meals and enjoy fireworks and fire cracker celebrations.
However, according to Sabrina Feng, a freshman at Curry and a teaching assistant in the Mandarin course, one of the differences is the decorations. “Red anything is used to celebrate the holiday,” Feng said. “Red banners over doorways, flower arrangements, and even fruit are used in the celebrations.” Feng added that the color red represents good luck in China.
Thomas Kobbs, a senior who took part in the trivia contest, said he greatly enjoyed the celebration. “The dancing was awesome; I really enjoyed it,” said Kobbs. “I learned a lot from the trivia, too.”
All in all, students got to learn a little about Chinese culture and Curry helped bring in the year of the horse, which is one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Each animal has its own attributes, and the horse represents prosperity, abundance and forward movement.