Lou Qiaoying, PCHS Chinese teacher, on traditions, customs of Chinese New Year

Published 10:00 pm Friday, January 27, 2017


Lou Qiaoying, Chinese teacher at Polk County High School, talked about Chinese New Year festivities and traditions in anticipation of the Chinese New Year on Saturday, Jan. 28. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

COLUMBUS – The Chinese New Year celebration is a sacred tradition in Chinese culture, according to Polk County High School Chinese teacher Lou Qiayong, and the day it’s celebrated is different each January depending on the lunar calendar.

This year’s celebrations are on January 28 and Qiayong said this year is the Year of the Rooster. Each year is named after one of 12 animal zodiac symbols; last year was the Year of the Monkey, next year will be the Year of the Dog. Her Chinese classes are celebrating the festivities here in the United States as she would if she were back at home in the Zhejiang province of China.

The Chinese celebrate the holiday with artwork, dancing, the Spring Festival gala party televised on CCTV and honoring their ancestors, Qiaoying said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Chinese New Year is celebrated for 16 days from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival,” Qiaoying said. “The preparations start seven days before the New Year’s Eve. Many activities for this period are traditional customs, but some are quite new.”

Qiaoying said these activities include decorating the classroom’s door with paper cuttings with Chinese characters and learning about the culture and 12 animal zodiacs associated with the Chinese New Year.

Jaylon Bontrager, Dillon Overholt and Hope Patterson, Chinese I students, learned a traditional Chinese dance during class on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate Chinese New Year. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

Jaylon Bontrager, Dillon Overholt and Hope Patterson, Chinese I students, learned a traditional Chinese dance during class on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate Chinese New Year. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

“We decorated our door with paper cuttings and spring couplets,” Qiaoying explained. “New Year couplets are paired phrases, typically of seven Chinese characters each, written on red paper in black or gold ink and we pasted one on each side of a door frame. We had ‘Wish happy family to be safe all the time’ or ‘Wish good days last like fire burning happily’ or ‘Wish you to be wealthy.’”

Students in Qiaoying’s classes also learned how to sing some Chinese New Year songs. She said she let her Chinese classes decide whether they wanted to sing or dance for the celebration.

Qiaoying said that in China, parents give their children red envelopes with money inside as good luck for part of the New Year’s festivities. While Qiaoying said she could not give money to her students, she would instead give out Chinese bookmarks.

“We enjoyed some of the most popular performances like singing, dancing, acrobatic performances, martial art performances and so on from CCTV Spring Festival Gala,” Qiaoying explained. “We also learned to sing some Chinese New Year songs such as ‘Congratulations,’ ‘Happy New Year’ and ‘Twelve Animal Zodiacs.’”

Calligraphy done on rice paper, specifically the rooster in different types of Chinese writing, was also integrated into Qiaoying’s lessons about her New Year celebrations.

“The students thought it was impossible to do the Chinese letters, but once they started painting, they thought it was easier,” Qiaoying explained. “We would paint art with Chinese symbols inside and write New Year greetings on the paper and make 2017 New Year posters.” Qiaoying taught her Chinese I students how to say Happy New Year in Chinese, or “Guo Nian Hao,” and her students responded the same way.

The Chinese classes from PCHS and Polk County Middle School will be having a spring festival celebration in the PCHS cafeteria to show off their artwork, teach the public New Year’s greetings and have Chinese food on Feb. 2 from 6-7 p.m.

“We plan to invite PCHS and PCMS Chinese class students, parents and Polk County teachers who are interested in Chinese culture to join us,” Qiaoying said. “We will eat Chinese food, enjoy PCHS Chinese students art show and performances.”

Students in Qiaoying’s Chinese I class learned traditional dances with fans in hands as they immersed themselves in how to celebrate Chinese New Year after watching performances from the Spring Festival, the annual New Year’s Eve televised party.

Qiaoying said she believes one of the most efficient ways to let people in the community know of the Chinese program at the high school is through the Chinese Speech Contest in North Carolina.

“I encouraged all of my students to take the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi test, the Chinese proficiency test,” Qiaoying explained. “It is an international standardized exam which tests and rates proficiency in the Chinese language. It has been the first and only time for Chinese guest teachers to help their students to get into the advanced level in the Chinese Speech Contest in North Carolina.”

The first HSK test was taken in January 2016 and Qiaoying said all nine of the students who took the test passed, with seven out of nine receiving full marks. PCHS won first place among the 10 schools taking the HSK test in 2016.

“Four students and a faculty member received scholarships to attend the language immersion program in Beijing during July,” Qiaoying said. “This has amazed the Polk County community and it has inspired students to learn Chinese better and attracted more attention. The students who went to China last summer thought it was a life-changing experience.”