YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood

The Year of the Snake: Chinese New Year in the Wien House

On Friday, February 8th, the Wien House residents were invited to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  Considered the most important of Chinese holidays, the lunar new year celebration—also called the Spring Festival—begins on the first day of the lunar calendar (this year on Monday, Feb. 10) and ends on the first day of the full moon (Sunday, Feb. 24).  The Lunar year is a cycle which consists of two separate cycles interacting with each other. The first is a cycle of ten heavenly stems, namely the Five Elements (in order: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water). The second is the cycle of the twelve Zodiac animal signs. They are in order as follows: the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.  This combination creates the 60-year cycle together. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, it is Chinese New Year 2013, and in many Asian cultures around the world, from China to Vietnam, families are celebrating the Year of the Snake.

New Year is a celebration of spring, and it is the time for all the family members to be together. On the eve of the lunar New Year families gather together to enjoy a meal full of foods considered lucky.  Children and young, unmarried individuals also receive red envelopes filled with money.

Unfortunately, due to the harsh weather conditions this year, most older adult residents of the Wien House could not join their children and extended families to celebrate the New Year.  Instead, the Y’s new social work intern from Columbia University, Xin Zhuo and the Wien House Coordinator, Francisco Concepcion, helped to bring the warmth and festivities of this holiday during the Wien House Friday “coffee hour.”

At the celebration, festive decorations with the Chinese traditional symbol “Fu”, representing luck and good fortune, were made by the diverse group of Wien House residents. Traditional dumplings with vegetable fillings were prepared and shared, symbolizing a good harvest in the coming year.  Chinese songs from the collection of Mr. Chang, a Wien House Chinese resident, were played and enjoyed by the residents at the table. Every participant, including Russian speaking and Spanish speaking residents, enjoyed learning about Chinese culture, making art and sharing food. They compared the Jewish calendar and the Christian calendar with the Chinese one and celebrated each other’s heritage.

By Xin Zhuo

About the Y
Established in 1917, the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood (the Y) is Northern Manhattan’s premier Jewish community center — serving an ethnically and socio-economically diverse constituency — improving the quality of life for people of all ages through critical social services and innovative programs in health, wellness, education, and social justice, while promoting diversity and inclusion, and caring for those in need.

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