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The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.
Life-size puppets representing the beast Nien Life-size puppets representing the beast Nien dance in the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, on Chinese New Years, February 14. (Photo courtesy Andrew Liang)

In Roars the New Year!

Atlanta ushers in Year of the Tiger

By Andrew Liang | February 16 , 2010

Once upon a time in a Chinese village there was a mythological beast named Nien. The beast came down from the mountains on the first day of every year to east livestock and villagers—especially little children. The villagers put offerings and food on their doorsteps on New Year's Eve to fill the beast and save their children.

One day the villagers saw that Nien was scared of a child wearing red. They began to decorate their houses with bright red and set off firecrackers to scare the beast away. Nien was never seen again and the tradition of Chinese New Year began. That ancient tradition is not only celebrated in China but also in cities with large Chinese populations like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, Georgia.

"I'm an ethnic Chinese, and this is our New Year celebration," said Gary Guan, a candidate for the Georgia State Senate. Guan attended a New Year's celebration at the Atlanta Chinese Culture Center on Sunday, which was also Valentine's Day. "My family had the New Year's Eve dinner together and we watched the Chinese New Year's Gala on TV."

In Atlanta's Chinatown on Sunday, festivities could be heard from far away. Drums for the lion dance began early, reverberating through the air. The Chinese Culture Center was packed with spectators enjoying authentic Chinese foods and snacks while watching traditional musical and dance performances.

Outside the Culture Center, lion dances attracted huge crowds. Three colorful paper lions leaped, kicked, turned, and rocked in dance steps based on Chinese martial art moves. They danced to the rhythm of the loud drum and cymbals. Opening their mouths wide at the end, the lions "swallowed" red envelopes from people who wished for a peaceful new year.

"I have come to the Chinese New Year events every year for nearly a decade," said spectator Tom Saxton. "But 2010 is by far the best."

kid reporter andrew liang at a chinese new year celebration in atlanta
Kid Reporter Andrew Liang feeds a red envelope to a dragon at a Chinese New Year celebration in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 14, 2009. (Photo courtesy Andrew Liang)

Years of the Moon

The Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is the most important holiday to Chinese people. Starting from the first day of the first month using the Lunar Calendar, the holiday spans a period of 15 days. The year 2010 is the year 4708 in the Lunar Calendar.

Each lunar year is represented by one of 12 animals. Each animal represents a unique personality for people born in that year. For example, 1998 was the year of the Tiger. Now, 12 years later, it is the year of the Tiger again in a cycle called the Chinese Zodiac.

In China, preparations for the New Year's celebrations begin weeks in advance. People shop, cook, and clean. Some foods take weeks to prepare. On New Year's Eve, family members gather together for the most important meal of the year—the reunion dinner. At midnight they set off firecrackers to celebrate.

On New Year's Day the children wake up early and greet their parents and the elderly. In return they receive small red envelopes containing money. They also receive new clothes, shoes, and other gifts.

Community celebrations include lion and dragon dances in the streets, accompanied by drum beating and firecrackers, to dramatize the fight with the mythological beast Nien.

The next 15 days will be full of festivities and many Chinese people will be off work. Every day or two there will be significant activities including eating a special food or celebrating a Chinese god's birthday.

On the final day, the Lantern Festival takes place. The day is celebrated by viewing traditional Chinese lanterns and eating TangYuan, glutinous Chinese rice balls.

"When I was a child, my family celebrated Chinese New Year like all others," said Amy Yang, a Taiwanese-American shopkeeper near Chinatown in Atlanta. "We had New Year's Eve dinner, lit up firecrackers, and went to see the lion dances."

Yang's daughter is in Shanghai, China, celebrating the New Year in her mother's home country for the first time. "She told me over the phone the smoke from firecrackers filled the air," Yang said. "I used to set them off myself."

CHINESE NEW YEAR

How does the rest of the country celebrate Chinese New Year? Find out in the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps's Chinese New Year Special Report!

NEWS FOR KIDS, BY KIDS

Get the latest on national and international events, movies, television, music, sports, and more from the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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