Are you ready for the year of the ox?

Buddhists rush to stick incense sticks in an urn at a local Chinese Buddhist temple on Monday Jan. 26, 2009 in Singapore. Wong Maye-E, The Associated Press

By Ellyn Newell

While the majority of students at the University celebrated the New Year a little over three weeks ago, Yanfen Li, sophomore in Engineering, plans on going home to celebrate a more culturally significant new year.

“The holiday is really about family,” said Li, who is also the president of the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association. “It’s a chance to see everyone as well as talk about the future and the funny parts of the past.”

Lunar New Year, also referred to as Chinese New Year, is one of the most important traditional Chinese holidays. The festival traditionally lasts for 15 days and this year it begins on Jan. 26.

Hong Nan, sophomore in LAS and the cultural chair for the student association, recently returned from China, where they prepare early for this holiday. She said many people clean out their whole house to symbolize starting a fresh year. This year was especially important for people traveling to China because a storm last year prevented many from being able to get back.

“It’s stressful and tickets go really fast this time of year but it really shows how important people believe it is to spend this time with family,” Nan said.

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    As family-oriented as this holiday is, it is very difficult for some students to travel home. This is why the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association has planned an event in hopes of bringing home to those who are unable to travel there.

    The celebration will take place at the University YMCA on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. It will consist of live performances by Illini Kung Fu Club, TASC Special Ops, Floor Lovers Illinois and U of Illinois Chinese Ensemble. There will also be free catered Chinese food.

    Food plays a big role in making this holiday special. Tina Lan, sophomore in AHS and internal vice president for the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association, is excited for the hot pot, which is a little pot with chicken broth, vegetables, meat, pork and other flavors and seasoning. Her family then dips cooked meat into the pot.

    “I cannot wait to eat a lot of good food,” Lan said.

    Li’s family makes dumplings. One of the dumplings has coins folded into it, and the person that finds the coins is supposed to have luck for the upcoming year.

    Every lunar year is represented by an animal. There are 12 animals, which repeat every 12 years. Tradition states that there was a race between the animals and the order in which they represent a year is the order in which they finished the race. Some animals have a negative connotation, while others tend to be more positive animals. This year is the year of the ox.

    “I was born in the year of the dragon so that is supposed to be really lucky,” Nan said. “There used to be years you didn’t want to be born in but now they’re all pretty much seen as good years.”

    While this holiday does have mythological roots, Nan feels that it is more important to be focused on who you are celebrating with.

    “As a kid I knew the origin but now I really look forward to spending time with friends and family,” Nan said.

    The Chinese Undergraduate Student Association is looking forward to their celebration of the new lunar year. Last year, about 250 people attended and they are hoping that at least 50 more people will join them in the year of the ox.

    “The more people that are there, the more cheerful of a celebration it will be,” Lan said.