Year of the Ox: students embrace positivity, resilience, culture with Lunar New Year celebrations

Couplets are hung outside houses to protect the household from evil and welcome prosperity.

Photo by Ella Shi '23

Couplets are hung outside houses to protect the household from evil and welcome prosperity.

Ella Shi ’23, Staff Writer

According to Chinese myth, the story of the zodiac calendar originates from when the Jade Emperor challenged 12 animals to a race. The Rat asked the Ox for help and rode on his back until he jumped off at the last moment and crossed the finish line first. In second came the Ox and after it came the other 10 animals, marking each new year with a different animal. In the tale, the Rat symbolizes cleverness and shrewdness, while the Ox represents positivity, resilience and honesty.

On Feb. 12, members of the Staples community celebrated Lunar New Year with cultural traditions, embracing positivity and persistence as the year of the Ox begins. 

Lunar New Year is a major holiday in many Asian countries. For example, in China, celebrations last for 15 days, and many people get a full week off of work and school to prepare for a series of festivities.

“When I was younger and lived in Hong Kong, my family and I would travel to mainland China to be with our relatives during the Lunar New Year,”

— Jessica Qi '22

“When I was younger and lived in Hong Kong, my family and I would travel to mainland China to be with our relatives during the Lunar New Year,” Jessica Qi ’22 said. “We would put up red spring couplets on our doors to welcome good fortunes and blessings.”

Although she no longer lives in Hong Kong, Qi still continues to uphold the holiday’s traditions, though differently.

“Now that I live here in Connecticut, it is not as convenient to travel back to China to be with my relatives each year,” Qi said. “Hence, we still celebrate by participating in all these traditions, except we have our Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner with family friends and FaceTime our relatives back in China.”

Additionally, for many Asian families, an important tradition for Lunar New Year is to make and eat various cultural foods.

“My grandma has a deep fryer and makes spring rolls,” Elle Desmarteau ’22 said. “We also have dumplings and oranges which symbolize fortune.”

However, the most significant aspect for Staples students who celebrate Lunar New Year is the time spent with family.

Of course, this year is vastly different for many people who celebrate the holiday. Despite the inability to travel to Asia, students, such as Spencer Yim ’23, still find ways to connect with family and carry out traditions.

“The uniqueness of this year won’t stop us from doing any of the great and long traditions of the Lunar New Year celebration,” Yim said. “I’m so thankful for the online […] resources that are available that allow us to communicate with relatives all across the country.”

Regardless of the limitations, Staples has also embraced the Lunar New Year as the Mandarin teachers, such as Chris Fray, have made plans to educate their students on this significant holiday.

“Each year, we try to introduce a new aspect of the celebration of [Lunar] New Year so that Mandarin students will gain knowledge of […] this most important of Chinese holidays,” Fray said. 

Fray recognizes the importance of acknowledging Lunar New Year in order to appreciate different cultures within the community.

“It’s very important for our students to realize that there is a vibrant Asian community in our area,” Fray said. “It’s time that Americans […] truly understand the origins and significance of [Asia’s] most important and widely celebrated holiday.”

Thus, with the ringing in of the Lunar New Year and the year of the Ox comes new possibilities for the Staples community and a chance to leave negativity in the past.

“The Ox usually symbolizes people of hard work and determination,” Yim said. “In this year of 2021, we all need to maintain a spirit of perseverance, even through our current and future challenges.”