ABC: Chinese New Year


Credit: Elizabeth Zhong

In the latest installment of ABC, American Born Chinese, reporter Jonathan Zhang talks about the importance of Chinese New Year and what it means to Chinese students.

New Years feels like it was a while ago, doesn’t it? But for many Chinese students and the most populated country in the world, New Years is right around the corner. This is a time bursting with ornate lanterns, red envelopes filled with money, celebrations all around and traditions. It’s Chinese New Year, also dubbed the Spring Festival.

As we approach the Spring Festival, I’m actually really excited. I’m not sure about all Chinese households, but for mine and my family friends’, Chinese New Year is a much bigger deal than Christmas or any other holiday.

Our family hardly even bothers to deal with Christmas. We have a fake tree that’s been up for the last decade or so, and my brother and I always get the same thing: $20 in cash in a red envelope. It’s so mellowed out that I honestly don’t feel the childish excitement that most of my non-Chinese friends experience during Christmas.

And yet, during the Spring Festival, I feel happiness, excitement and belonging. Friends and family make the journey to visit each other, gifts are exchanged, live performances are streamed from China and decorations are placed all around the house.

I feel that, for as big of a holiday as the Spring Festival is, we should get school off during that time or at least some recognition. Many of my relatives in China get a week off just to celebrate the holiday. Chinese New Year happens to coincide with our February break, though we still have school on the Friday the festivities start. But let me tell you, that’s not enough.

This is literally one of the most important holidays for Chinese people. It means so much to us. Imagine if someone told you that you had to go to school on Thanksgiving. That’s the situation Chinese students are in. Why should we get school off during those holidays when we can’t get school off during Chinese New Year?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate and get school off during important holidays, but it really puts a damper in the mood to have school and worry about tests, projects and homework due on the day of the festivities.

More importantly though, I feel like most people don’t understand how much this holiday means to Chinese students. Just like New Years, the Spring Festival represents a fresh start and a celebration of the passing of another year. But it also means a time to see family and friends that live both in China and across the world.

For most Chinese students, we have countless relatives and friends that live across the world, and because of that, we don’t get to see them that often. It’s a long distance relationship that’s comprised of the occasional phone call or text. That all changes during the festivities; I get to see my family, my friends and catch up with all of them.

Cheesy as it may sound, it brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes when I see someone that I love for the first time in months. Chinese New Year is only once a year. It’s a time when I forget all the bad in the world, and see only the good in what’s to come. It’s a time when I feel the happiest. So please, don’t ruin this precious day by making us attend school, and let us enjoy the Spring Festival to the fullest.