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Guo Nian

Celebrating the year of the pig at Potomac Library

Stephanie and Elisa Hu watched in awe as ribbons twirled, lions danced, and yo-yos leapt from string to string. Welcome to the year 4705, the year of the pig.

The Chinese New Year began last week, and on Saturday, Feb. 24 the Washington Kuang Chi Chinese School hosted an event at the Potomac Library to show people what the celebration is all about. Based on the Lunar calendar and Chinese mythology, this year is the year 4705 and the year of the pig.

“The pig symbolizes good fortune,” said Isabel Hsu. Those born during the year of the pig are loyal, diligent, and intelligent, said Hsu.

Saturday’s event featured an educational slide show and exhibitions of traditional dance, tai chi, Chinese yo-yo twirling, and calligraphy lessons. A crowd of approximately 50 people attended, many of whom were families and young children.

Shelly Epstein’s daughter Alison is in kindergarten at Potomac Elementary School and takes part in the Chinese Immersion program there. Shelly wanted Alison to experience Chinese culture first-hand.

“We’re supporting her learning,” Shelly Epstein said.

Stephanie and Elisa Hu are each half-Chinese, said their mother Sandy Hu. The 3-year-old twins are learning Chinese and English at home. Hu said that she wants her daughters to learn their language and their culture, and that learning about the Chinese New Year was an important part of that. Events like Saturday’s were important for broader reasons though, said Hu, as China’s growing stature as a global economic and political forces make it important for American’s to understand Chinese culture.

“In this country, China is the future,” Hu said.

THE CHINESE calendar is based upon the lunar calendar, said Hsu, and revolves in 12-year cycles. Each year is represented by an animal; the twelve animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The celebration of the Chinese New Year is traditionally a three-day event, said Hsu. The first day involves a religious ceremony that people celebrate in their homes. The second day is a time to worship ancestors and gods and the third day is a time to visit relatives, said Hsu.

Traditional celebrations involve older relatives giving red envelopes with money in them to children for good luck, said Hsu. People hand posters with poems and sayings on them and decorate their homes with flowers, Hsu said.

Hsu gave a brief lesson in the Chinese language to the crowd at the Potomac Library: ‘Laisee’ is the word for the red envelopes given during the new year, ‘Weilu’ is the traditional new year’s feast, and ‘Guo Nian’ is to celebrate the new year, said Hsu.