Xiaobo Li, third-year Bachelor’s student at the Institute of International Development and Partnership
As the Chinese New Year’s date is determined by the lunar calendar, the day of the celebration shifts from year to year. This time, it is celebrated on February 12. In China, we consider it the most important festival, thus always preceded by great preparations. In St. Petersburg, the routine doesn’t change either. First things first, we decorate our rooms with hieroglyphs. As you can’t buy any in Russia, we have to put our calligraphy skills to the test and draw by ourselves. Usually, we hang the hieroglyph 福 – which means “happiness” – on the door, and one of the 12 symbols of the calendar inside the house – this year, that’s the Ox.
When it comes to gifts, in the New Year we exchange red envelopes with a little money inside. The amount of money should start with 6 or 8, as these are lucky numbers in China. Nowadays, the envelopes are often digital: we send each other money and a postcard via WeChat.
A traditional dish of the Spring Festival is dumplings stuffed with vegetables and meat. They’re not easy to make, and the most delicious are usually the handiwork of the mom and the grandmother. Since my friends and I are far away from family dinners, we can order food from local restaurants, but still prefer to tackle this challenge and make dumplings together. The cool thing about cooking yourself is that you can choose your own favorite ingredients, for me that’s beef and carrots. !
In general, dumplings are a traditional meal for lots of Chinese holidays. For example, the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year, which falls on December 21 or 22 – is considered by the Chinese as the coldest day of the year when you need to warm up with hot dumplings!
Jiyuan Chang, first-year Master’s student at the Faculty of Software Engineering and Computer Systems
The Chinese New Year is indeed a family celebration, and it’s a tradition to visit and wish joy to your close relatives. As I'm staying in Russia and don’t have an opportunity to join my parents, the first thing I do in the morning on Chinese New Year’s Eve is to give them a call. No matter how far you are from each other, there’s always a way to pay respect and get in touch with the ones you love.
One of the most important parts of the feast is the Spring Festival Gala – an annual TV show dedicated to the celebration of the Chinese New Year, broadcasted by China Central Television. It highlights Chinese ethnic characteristics and regional culture. We watch it live on YouTube, but, we have to get ready much in advance due to the time difference: the show starts at 8 pm in China when it’s only 3 pm in St. Petersburg.
Recalling my previous year's celebrations, my friends and I walked around the city center and then went shopping to buy groceries for the festive dinner. In the evening, after watching the show, we had a glass of champagne and talked a lot about life.
Erli Hu, second-year Bachelor’s student at the Institute of International Development and Partnership
It’ll be my first time celebrating the Chinese New Year at the dorm, not in an apartment, and that’s why I think I’m lucky that all my friends are from ITMO. Of course, it can’t compare to being at home on these days, as this holiday is literally the day of family reunions and now we communicate through WeChat. That’s why we try to have as much fun as we can without forgetting important traditions. Last year, we threw a party – we cooked, dined, sang, drank, and played mahjong until the early morning. After all, no matter which country celebrates the New Year, everyone enjoys eating and playing games together. We do watch the annual Spring Festival Gala show, but it’s mostly playing in the background like background music – although it still counts.
What I find interesting is the diversity of traditions between different parts of China, especially when it comes to presents. I believe there are no traditions in my hometown. However, there are some things you should never give as a present during the Spring Festival: like candles (they are used to honor the dead), rag dolls (they can attract bad spirits), or plums and pears (these are homonyms of the word for evil and to give these two fruits is to wish for a couple to break up).
Liu Dong, second-year Master’s student at the Faculty of Control Systems and Robotics
The customs of celebrating the Spring Festival vary between regions. On New Year’s Eve in Southern China, they usually serve fish for dinner, while in the North they eat dumplings. In Chinese, the pronunciation of the word fish is the same as prosperity and word dumplings sounds the same as the change of time.
I live in a dorm and nowadays, there are few Chinese students here, so we are planning to have dumplings at a restaurant. Before that, we are going shopping to buy new clothes – a new year is a great chance to start fresh and share in the hope of good things to come, and it's nice to begin with an updated wardrobe.
In the evening, I’ll call my parents and watch the Spring Gala Festival (apart from the main one, each region of China broadcasts its own festive show). When the official part is over, we prefer watching New Year movies, for example, comedies starring Jackie Chan. In China, going to the cinema on this day is very popular among young people who don't celebrate it at home.