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    Chinese New Year in Waterloo

    The Chinese New Year is based on the ancient Chinese calendar, which served as a religious, social and dynastic guide in historic China. This calendar is believed to have existed as early as the 14th century B.C. during the Shang Dynasty. The calendar's structure changed based on which emperor was in power at the time, and it varied in how it was used based on region. This year the Isle® will be helping to celebrate with a beautiful firework celebration on February 19. Learn a little more about the holiday and what these fireworks mean to so many.

    The New Year has historically been an incredibly important celebration to the Chinese people. During this significant holiday, everything in the home was focused solely on the celebration. Cleaning the home and spending time with family were the main focus and businesses closed. Cleaning one's home was important at this time because homes needed to be rid of huiqi, inauspicious breaths that are believed to have collected in the home throughout the year. Additionally, cleaning was essential since it was believed that it would appease the gods, who would come from heaven to make household inspections.

    Paper icons and food were common as offerings during rituals and lucky messages were printed on scrolls, which were left at household gates. Firecrackers were set off to ward off evil spirits. Many of the traditions done during this time were made with the goal of bringing good luck to the home and long life to the family, especially the parents.

    Food is an essential part of the Chinese New Year. On New Year's Eve the entire family sits around a table for a delicious extravagant meal. Interestingly, fish is served as a last course but is not eaten as it serves as a symbol of abundance. During the first five days of the New Year, long noodles are eaten which symbolize a long life. On the last day of the New Year (the fifteenth day) round dumplings are served since they are shaped like a full moon and symbolize family unity and perfection.

    Over the years some changes have occurred in the way the Chinese New Year is celebrated. The Chinese New Year has been renamed to Spring Festival and now has a much shorter duration. This holiday that was once celebrated for 15 days is now only several days long. Also, it was once common to stop all business and celebrate the Chinese New Year with family. This is not the case today, and most businesses in China stay open throughout the Chinese New Year celebration.

    San Francisco has the biggest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia. The city has been hosting the Chinese New Year celebration since the Gold Rush era in the 1860s when there was a large influx of Chinese immigration in the San Francisco bay area.

    Chinese New Year in America is often celebrated with parades offering floats, exploding firecrackers and Chinese acrobatics. There is a grand finale at the end of the parade with over 600,000 firecrackers set off! This follows the old Chinese tradition of lighting fireworks to scare away evil spirits. During the grand finale, a giant dragon called the Golden Dragon appears and is elaborately decorated, resting on a frame of bamboo and rattan. The Golden Dragon was constructed in a small town called Foshan in China. Dragon masters in Foshan made all of the costumes for the Cantonese opera. This is why the Golden Dragon has so many operatic details in its décor. It has rainbow colored pompoms, colored lights all down its body, silver rivets and rabbit fur. The Golden Dragon has 29 segments over 201 feet long, has a 6-foot-long head, and takes 100 people to carry!

    Although San Francisco has the largest celebration, other major U.S. cities celebrate the Chinese New Year with a parade and festival. New York City is said to have the second largest celebration in the United Sates. New York City has the highest population of Chinese Americans in the country, so it's no wonder they have one of the largest celebrations.

    The New York City celebration splits the Chinese New Year into two segments. The first segment is a Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival with drumming, dancing and traditional Asian cuisine. The Firecracker Ceremony includes over 600,000 fireworks. Finally, a parade with decorated floats travels from Little Italy to the main streets of Chinatown.

    The Isle® here in Waterloo will be celebrating this exciting holiday with a fun night of fireworks! Starting at 9pm on February 19 join us in welcoming another new year for this old culture! Stop by and visit us on Facebook or Twitter and tell us how you will be celebrating.



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