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February 10, 2010 > It's the Year of the Tiger

It's the Year of the Tiger

By Alissa Gwynn
Photos By courtesy of Fremont Main Library

This year, as many observe Valentine's Day on February 14, those of Chinese and Vietnamese heritage will have another reason to celebrate: Chinese New Year and Tet. This is the beginning of fifteen days (Chinese) or seven days (Vietnamese) full of traditions, food, and entertainment. Often referred to as the Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year and Tet are similar to Western celebrations that occur on January 1, yet follow the Lunar Calendar based on the movements of the moon and sun.

According to Chinese legend, a beast named Nien (which also means 'year') would appear and attack villagers at the end of each year. Only loud noises and bright lights could scare it away, and thus Chinese New Year was born.

In preparation for the New Year, people buy presents, gather decorations, and thoroughly clean their houses to "sweep" away any bad luck. Typical decorations include chun lian, or couplets written on strips of red paper that have uplifting messages about the upcoming year. In addition, various colors and objects are associated with good luck for the New Year: red for happiness, gold/yellow for wealth and happiness, oranges and tangerines for good health and a long life, among many others.

Vietnamese traditions consider the Mandarin Orange Tree as a symbol of hope, good luck and prosperity. Earth Cake (Banh Chung) is eaten to honor the earth and ancestors.

The New Year's Eve meal is largely considered to be the most important dinner of the year, and families gather to eat traditional foods. For Chinese celebrants fish and duck dishes, Tang Yuan (black sesame rice ball soup), and Song Gao (sweet rice cake) are served while a special ceremony called Le Tru Tich is held by Vietnamese at midnight (Giao Thua) on New Year's Eve.

On the fifth day of Chinese New Year celebrations, called Jie Cai Ceng, it is believed that the gods of prosperity come down from heaven. Many businesses set off firecrackers to bring them good luck in the New Year.

Throughout the celebration, hong bao (red papers filled with money) are given to children and single, unemployed adults. Additionally, it is common to see dragon dancers and parades.

On the final day of the Chinese New Year's celebration (which is also a full moon), thousands of red lanterns are lit for the Festival of Lights. One legend of the lantern festival is associated with the ancient god of heaven, Taiyi. Taiyi controlled human destiny and had the power to inflict natural disasters on humans as punishment, so it is said that Emperor Qinshihuang started the festival in order to please Taiyi and ask for protection.

Chinese and Vietnamese New Year is a celebration rich with culture, tradition, and fun. Everyone is invited to enjoy festivities held around the Bay Area.

Have a prosperous and good year!"

Tet Festival of Northern California

Saturday & Sunday, February 13, 14
11 a.m. - 11 p.m. (close at 6 p.m. on Sunday)
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds
344 Tully Rd., San Jose
$10 admission ($7 children 12 & under)
$8 parking
(408) 295-9210

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Thursday, February 11
Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day Craft
5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Newark Library
6300 Civic Terrace Ave., Newark
Contact Mary Ayers (510) 795-2627 x15
Free for all ages, no registration required

Tuesday, February 16 and Thursday, February 18
Chinese New Year Lantern Riddle Game
All ages, stop by anytime to play
Centerville Library
3801 Nicolet Ave., Fremont
(510) 795-2629

Saturday, February 20
Celebrate Chinese New Year - the Year of the Tiger
Hosted by Citizens for a Better Community
Entertainment including a Lion Dance
1 p.m. to 2 p.m., Fukaya Meeting Room
Crafts and Traditional Art demonstrations
1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Children's Area
Fremont Main Library
2400 Stevenson Blvd.
For more information, contact Children's Information Desk (510) 745-1421

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Chinese New Year Celebration
Union City Library
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Free for all ages
34007 Alvarado-Niles Road
ASL interpreters are available by request with seven working days notice.
(510) 745-1464

Saturday, February 27
Chinese New Year Celebration
5 p.m. and 7 p.m. seating
China Chili Restaurant
Open Menu
39116 State Street, Fremont
(510) 791-1688

Saturday, February 27
Chinese New Year Parade
5:15 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Market & Second St. to Kearny and Jackson, San Francisco
(415) 986-1370

Sunday, February 28
Chinese New Year Celebration Banquet
6 p.m.
Mayflower Seafood Restaurant
34348 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City
(510) 381-9989
$60 per person/$550 per table of 10

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