Students celebrate Chinese New Year, express themselves with calligraphy

Eddie Sun

Students at this school are preparing for Chinese New Year and the traditions that follow. According to Case Western Research University, Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, was on Jan. 22 this year and it is the most important social and economic holiday for billions of people around the world. Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunisolar and solar Chinese calendar, and it is one of the most important festivals in China. 

Chinese teacher Tungfen Lee said she celebrates Chinese New Year in various ways, practicing many traditions and preparing well in advance.

“Chinese New Year is one of the most important traditional holidays for Chinese people all over the world. It is a family reunion, and it is a time to welcome the new and the good as well,” Lee said. “Chinese New Year preparation begins well in advance. We will clean the house, decorate the house with a variety of auspicious Chinese decorations and plan a big feast for family reunion.  On New Year’s Eve, we will have a family reunion dinner and give children red envelopes with cash inside for good fortune in the new year.  During the New Year holiday, we take time to visit friends and relatives or go sightseeing.  The atmosphere of the New Year lasts for 15 days, until the Lantern Festival is over.”

Chinese New Year is also celebrated worldwide, with many traditions that follow. Some traditions include putting up decorations, offering sacrifices to ancestors, giving red envelopes, and dragon dances; however, a tradition often disregarded is the practice of Chinese calligraphy.

Jocelyn Yang, a senior who practices Chinese calligraphy, said Chinese New Year is important for her and her family.

“Chinese New Year is important to me for two reasons: It is an important hallmark of time as it signals the entry into the new year, along with it being a gathering of family. Its importance is like Christmas in America. The New Year is typically celebrated using food, money and, for us, honoring the dead,” Yang said. “Food is usually traditional foods like whole fish, dumplings and other symbolic food, but also hot pot. Hot pot is a sharing experience and a time to bond with family. Money is also given in hóngbǎo (red envelope). This is from parents to children, from older to younger and from wed to unwed. Another side of the celebrations is placing food at an altar for the dead. Though food is normally put out year round, during the New Year’s, a greater abundance and variety is put out so that the dead may also enjoy the festivities. Some choose to light incense, though we choose to not as I am sensitive.”

Yuan “Heidi” Yue, National Chinese Honor Society (NCHS) member and junior, teaches a community member Chinese calligraphy. NCHS organized a Chinese New Year celebration on Jan. 23 at the Carmel Clay Public Library. (Chenyao Liu)

Yang said she continues to practice calligraphy because she feels very close to it and loves the style as it was a part of her family’s life and an integral way for them to express themselves. 

Yang said calligraphy is important and should still be practiced as it is a form of expression and part of cultural heritage.

“The importance of Chinese calligraphy is its ties to traditional Chinese culture. Though it is not necessary anymore for its original purpose of capturing scenery, it is still relevant as an art source and a form of expression,” Yang said. “It’s a way for people to express themselves through art, particularly in a traditional style that can capture both the literal and metaphorical. It holds a similar position to oil painting in Europe. It’s important to preserve traditional art forms as it is a cultural heritage that should not be lost.”

Lee said she agrees with Yang, saying traditional Chinese calligraphy should be preserved and is an important tradition of Chinese New Year.

“The Chinese brush calligraphy is one of the highly valued traditional arts. It is very much like painting. It uses Chinese characters to communicate the spiritual world of the artist. Calligraphy is not only a practical technique for writing Chinese characters, but also a unique Oriental art of expression,” Lee said. “Together with painting, it is the best representation of Chinese art. The calligraphy artwork is admired and displayed at home, in public areas, as well as in museums.”

Junior Billy Qian who also enjoys calligraphy said calligraphy is a well respected art and should be spread across the world.

“It’s a part of Chinese culture and of course great calligraphy work looks aesthetically pleasing. Also when I was younger my parents always told me that calligraphy is the second face, people can tell what kind of person you are by looking at your calligraphy. It is a culture, a tradition I’d say, and I think it’s very important to spread a country’s culture to the world because cultures are always fascinating,” Qian said. “Some people practice calligraphy as a hobby, some people do it because they want to study Chinese culture. So I’d say there’s just so many different reasons why people are still practicing calligraphy today, it’s just a good thing to do and no good thing ever dies.”

Yang said she believed it is important to preserve the art of calligraphy, especially practicing it during Chinese New Year.

“While calligraphy is no longer as mainstream as it was hundreds of years ago, certain young Chinese are delving into traditional arts and trying to bring it back. Some are attempting to hold on to a cultural identity that is being lost to globalization,” Yang said. “I do think that calligraphy has grown in popularity in the Western world. There has been an attempt to preserve it; its long term effect however, is unknown. It will only be around as long as people are interested in it.”