The Southern Oregon Chinese Cultural Association will be ushering in the Year of the Dragon by hosting an all-day New Year’s festival Saturday, Feb. 4, in downtown Jacksonville.
The celebration begins at 8:00 a.m. with the Dragon Flight 5K Fun Run, and the main parade will begin at 10:30 a.m., on the corner of Oregon Street and Main Street. The event will also feature martial arts exhibitions, arts and crafts, and even cooking classes. Most of the events during the day will be free.
One of the most important traditional holidays for the Chinese, the Chinese New Year celebrates the Lunar New Year on Jan. 23, which uses a different calendar than the Gregorian system used in western society.
Jiahui Zhang, a Chinese exchange student attending St. Mary’s School and living at Southern Oregon University, explained the cultural reason behind celebrating the Chinese New Year.
“In the mythology of our culture, our ancestors were attacked by a monster, who we call Nian, that hunted for food, when it was winter there was not enough food in the mountain, so it would go to the village and hunt people, which frightened the village,” said Zhang.
“After a few years, the people noticed that the monster Nian was afraid of the color red, loud noises, and flames and so every winter, the villagers would use those to protect themselves and there would be no more Nian.”
The Chinese custom has evolved and they use other ways of representing their fears of Nian. People who were born on the same animal year of the New Year for instance, will wear the color red and post celebratory red banners on their doors. The Chinese New Year festival will display many of these cultural icons in different forms of art such as the Dragon Dance during the main parade, which Zhang is participating in.
The Chinese calendar is composed of a 12-year cycle of animals, all of which represent certain characteristics of people born during that year and the believed outcomes of the year. The Year of The Dragon is the only animal out of the twelve that doesn’t exist, and it is also considered to be the luckiest.
The celebrations traditionally continue for fifteen days after the Lunar New Year, with specific customs and beliefs represented each day. The Year of The Dragon festival is taking place on the thirteenth day of the year, which is dedicated to a deity Chinese God of War, General Guan Yu, who is represented as strong, loyal, honest, and just.
Last year’s Chinese New Year event hosted Ghaffar Pourazar, Director of the International Center for Beijing Opera, who conducted singing, dancing and workshops for anyone in attendance. This year, SOCCA is welcoming the Loong Mah Ladies Dragon Dance Team from San Francisco, who will be performing in the New Year Parade.
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