lexington rings in the chinese new year

By Kelly Wiley

It may be February, but billions of people are celebrating a new year today.

Celebrations of the Chinese New Year are taking place across the world today, and Lexington is no exception.

“The Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday of the year for people of Chinese ancestry,” said Changzheng Wang, secretary of the Kentucky Chinese American Association. “Basically, in terms of importance, it is paramount to Christmas.”

Because it is based on the lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year isn’t always on Feb. 6; it takes place sometime in the last two weeks of January or the first two weeks of February.

Each year is associated with an animal, revolving on a 10-year cycle. The year beginning in 2008 is the year of the rat.

Outside of China, the holiday is traditionally celebrated in countries with a significant Chinese population, like Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. However, people of all backgrounds celebrate the Chinese New Year, Wang said.

“The Chinese New Year has truly become a celebration for the whole community rather than just Chinese Americans,” Wang said.

People customarily spend Chinese New Year’s Eve with family members and celebrate the new year with a big feast, Wang said. Meals can vary among families, but one of the traditional dishes is fish, which symbolizes abundance.

One of the more well-known traditions is for married couples or older people to give red packets to unwed people, Wang said. The packets are passed down usually with $8 in them because eight is considered a lucky number, while four is unlucky.

The Explorium, a children’s museum downtown, is celebrating the Chinese New Year this weekend with a Chinese opera, an all-girls’ drum group and a wide variety of dances. The performances include dancers and acrobats who have flown in from Harbin, China, said Deanna McDaniel, marketing director for the Explorium. The performances are at the Lexington Children’s Theatre (see “If you go” box for details).

The Living Arts & Science Center at 362 N. Martin Luther King Blvd. will also be holding a Chinese New Year celebration at 6 tonight.

The event will feature sword dancers, lantern making and a STARLAB planetarium show, which will focus on Chinese astronomy, said Katherine Bullock, education outreach coordinator for the center. Any person who makes a lantern will be able to take place in the lantern parade, which will take place later on in the evening depending on the weather.