Marcher carrying dragon head in San Francisco Chinese New Year parade
The Chinese New Year began on January 23, 2012, with celebrations in Chinese American communities across the United States and Canada—and of course in China itself. Twenty-twelve is a “Year of the Dragon”—which is viewed by many as the ultimate year in the Chinese calendar. Banquets, family reunions, and other various traditional folk practices mark the festivities. Firecrackers and red paper lanterns are also significant to the Chinese New Year. The color red is especially symbolic of fire-breathing dragons. According to legend, fire can drive away bad luck, and the festive use of fireworks is itself rooted in an ancient Chinese custom that holds they can frighten away evil spirits.
The Chinese “Zodiac” is a cycle of 12 years, with dragon actually being fifth (between rabbit and snake). Dragons are mythical creatures found frequently in Chinese folklore where they symbolize power, strength, and good fortune. Imperial China was represented by the dragon as a sign of power.
Dragon years are typically the most popular years for Chinese families to have children; as a result, more Chinese babies are born in dragon years than in any other year. People born in dragon years are believed to be innovative and energetic, brave and charismatic, and passionate. Ancient cultural traditions of China continue to be celebrated and receive a great deal of attention, in spite of the country’s rapid modernization. According to reports, many Chinese couples are seeking the aid of fertility clinics in order to have a baby born in the Year of the Dragon.
Image Credit: © AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
OnPoint: The Year of the Dragon
Listen to Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” radio broadcast on the Chinese New Year, with interviews with Chinese American historians, scholars, and authors, including Gish Jen; includes a link to a video of a dragon lightshow from Sichuan Province.
(Source: WBUR-Boston, January 23, 2012)
- Chinese New Year: 2012
Read all about the Year of the Dragon and what it means to Chinese culture.
(Source: infoplease.com; accessed January 31, 2012)
- Chinese New Year 2012: Pictures of Dragon Decorations in China
View a beautiful photo gallery of decorations in preparation for the Year of the Dragon in China.
(Source: International Business Times, January 19, 2012)
On-line Resources for Chinese-American History
The website of the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago features an excellent collection of links on Chinese American history, museums in North America, and more.
(Source: Chinese-American Museum of Chicago; accessed January 31, 2012)