January 30, 2019

Chinese Lunar New Year  Is the Year of the Pig

By Anne Levin

In the 12-year cycle of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac, 2019 is the Year of the Pig. Zodiac signs play an important role in Chinese culture, and can be used to determine fortune for the year, marriage compatibility, career fit, and even the best times to have a baby.

Predictions aside, the annual celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year is a chance for sampling food, games, music, martial arts, and colorful pageantry related to Chinese heritage. The official start of the year is February 5, but local and regional celebrations of the holiday start on February 1 and run through February 17.

Princeton High School’s Mandarin class and the school’s Chinese club will host a celebration at Princeton Public Library on Saturday, February 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. Open to all, the party includes activities for all ages including traditional music and instruments, martial arts, calligraphy, painting, dance, origami, and crafts.

Plainsboro Library is marking the Year of the Pig with a two-day festival on Saturday and Sunday, February 9 and 10. Look for a dragon dance team from the Huaxia Chinese School, music, calligraphy, Chinese knotting displays, games, and more. The activities begin Saturday at 12 p.m. with a reception for artist Jun Zhang, whose watercolors depict scenes of the Forbidden City in Beijing as well as portraits of senior citizens from the Xinjang Uygur region of China.

Librarian Joyce Huang has been in on the planning of the celebration. Growing up in New York City and spending some 15 years in Taiwan, Huang is familiar with her cultural heritage. “I’ve gone through a lot of the reunion dinners, which is one of the things we do,” she said. “This is the biggest holiday in China, and usually lasts for two weeks. The family gets together, and the reunion dinner is New Year’s Eve. You eat certain things like fish, which is a symbol for prosperity.”

The new year is also a time for buying new clothes and doing spring cleaning. “Children usually get a red envelope that generally has money inside,” said Huang. “We’ll have envelopes for the kids at the library, but they’ll have candy in them instead of money.”

Plainsboro Library has been marking Chinese New Year for about 15 years. “I believe we were the first library in this area to celebrate it,” said Huang. “We try to cater to our non-Chinese population as well as Chinese, and it has become a very popular event.”

In Philadelphia, Chinese New Year observances range from cooking demonstrations, calligraphy, and crafts at Reading Terminal Market to learning how to create a lunar calendar from artist Ash Limes Castellana at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Night owls can welcome in the year at Midnight Lion Dance performance by the Philadelphia Suns at 11:30 p.m. on Monday, February 4, starting at 10th and Race streets in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.

At Philadelphia’s Rail Park at 13th and Noble streets, modeled after New York’s High Line, a Lunar New Year Open is Saturday, February 9 from 12 to 4 p.m. This event is all about the food, with dumplings, noodles, and egg rolls for visitors. The Philadelphia Suns are back at it with a Lion Dance; the group also performs at the Chinatown parade on Sunday, February 10. That event is held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New York City rings in the Year of the Pig at the annual parade and festival on Sunday, February 17 from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in that city’s Chinatown. The procession starts at Mott and Canal streets. Visit betterchinatown.com for specific details.