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Lunar New Year starts today with celebrations in Western New York

Libing Wu
Chinese Club of Western New York

Sunday marks the start of the Lunar New Year. In traditional Chinese culture, the new year begins according to the lunar calendar, in late January or early February. The Chinese Club of Western New York’s President Jun Wang-Tiedemann says the tradition dates back almost 6,000 years.

“Lunar New Year has a long history. In China itself we’ve been celebrating that for thousands of years we go by the lunar calendar. A lot of people know the first day of New Year always falls on a different day every year," Wang-Tiedemann said.

There are 12 cycles of the lunar calendar and each cycle represents a year. The cycle starts with the rat and ends with the pig and repeats itself every 12 years. The animals are chosen for their qualities and traits. This year is the rabbit.

“Rabbit is the most luckiest animal of all 12. We wish babies were born in year of the rabbit to be a lucky baby have a really good healthy life. They are smart and agile," she said.

In the tradition of Chinese New Year, the celebration will feature a rabbit that won’t look like the Easter Bunny. Instead it will be red or yellow, colors that hold meaning in Chinese culture.

According to Chinese folklore, there’s a beast that awakens from the sea every 365 days and tries to eat people. The firecrackers and fireworks often associated with new year celebrations are meant to scare off the beast because it is afraid of loud noises.

“The red is coming from the beast is actually scared of fire. The red is the color of a fire and yellow for years is a primary color that the royal family used to pick. Our national flag has red and yellow," Wang-Tiedemann said.

Wang-Tiedemann says the celebration they’ve planned at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts is designed as a melting pot to learn about Chinese culture but also celebrate the many cultures that make up the Western New York community.

“All the partners are going to have their own table and showcase their own culture and see how they integrate with the Chinese Lunar culture. It is free to the public feel free to invite anyone you know, we want to raise more cultural awareness."