The 5 Spot: Welcoming the Year of the Monkey

If you’re like me, you get a little case of the post-holiday blues in the weeks after January 1. I miss the celebration of the holidays, the sense of completion of the old, and the hope-filled anticipation of a new year.

Well, don’t despair! Another holiday is just around the corner. The Chinese New Year arrives this year on February 8. The Year of the Fire Monkey promises to be an exciting one, as fun-loving Monkey brings passion, creativity, and joy. So grab your friends and family, and try one—or all!—of these five ways to welcome in the Chinese New Year:

  1. Attend an event put on by the University of Idaho International Programs Office. If you missed their annual Cruise the World international students’ fair on January 23, put it on your calendar for next year. In the meantime, consider volunteering as a Friendship Family for a visiting student from China (or from a host of other countries represented on campus). To learn more about these opportunities, go to http://www.uidaho.edu/international/intercultural-programs-events-and-activities.
  2. It’s traditional to clean out the old to make space for the new at this time of year. In the week before New Year, the Chinese get rid of old clothing and broken appliances and deep clean their homes. And donating to a local thrift shop, homeless shelter, or refugee relief organization is a great way to repurpose your unwanted gear. According to feng shui, the Chinese study of the flow of energy through spaces, de-cluttering is the first and best way to improve the circulation of energy through your home and, by extension, your body and your life. Once you’ve cleared out the clutter, decorate with the color red, considered auspicious. The Chinese hang red paper lanterns, a fun project for kids to make. For inspiration, check out some projects online at http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/chinesenewyear/lantern/.
  3. Make a Chinese feast and share with family and friends. The Chinese traditionally gather with family on the eve of the New Year for a “reunion dinner.” Check the Co-op’s condiments aisle for rice noodles, soy sauce, and other ingredients to create Chinese flavors. Include citrus fruits in your feast, or give some out as gifts. In Chinese, the words for orange and gold sound alike, and the Chinese word for tangerine sounds like the Chinese word for luck. Check the Co-op’s produce aisle for several varieties of tangerines and oranges.
  4. Start the new year with a new activity for health and enjoyment: Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient Chinese exercise methods that are fun and safe for anyone to practice. The UI offers such classes, as does the Moscow Parks and Recreation department.
  5. Get involved with the Confucius Institute. This organization, the mission of which is to promote the teaching and learning of Chinese culture and language, offers a broad array of events and classes at the UI and in the Moscow community. You can take in a lecture or a Chinese movie, study the language, or learn to cook Chinese food. For programming, go to http://www.uidaho.edu/class/confucius-institute/news.

Most important of all, share these celebrations with family and friends. And if you run into a Chinese student around town, be sure to say, “Gong Shee Fa Chai (Happy New Year)!”

We welcome Naomi Brownson to The 5 Spot! Naomi, who formerly wrote our staff profiles, is now bringing her thoughtful writing and approach to this column. A big thank you to Sarah Quallen, who retired her 5 Spot quill to pursue other adventures in her free time! - Editors