Riddles, treats, colorful lanterns ring in Chinese New Year

Portland State’s Confucius Institute will host a Chinese Lantern Festival on Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free to students and the public.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is a celebration of the last day of the lunar New Year on the Chinese lunisolar calendar.

“For me, the significance of celebrating Chinese New Year is getting together with my family and friends,” said Katie Luc, a student at PSU.

Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor ones’ ancestors and deities.

“It was to celebrate for harvesting fruits and rice because there are times when harvesting is not that great,” Luc said. “So when it is a success, they like to celebrate it.”

The modern Chinese New Year is focused more on family and friends.

“My family celebrates it because it brings friends together,” Luc said. “We get to have fun with the children and give them little Lucky Money, which [is a] little red envelope that has money inside. But honestly, we do not celebrate it traditionally.”

The Confucius Institute will also be offering traditional lantern riddles which, historically, are solved by children going to temples at night.

“Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days, so the riddle is only used on the last day of the celebration,” Luc said.

Sweet treats will also be available in the form of jiaozi and tangyuan. Jiaozi is a Chinese dumpling made from a thin piece of dough and filled with ground meat or vegetables.

Historically, families would sit together and make jiaozi from scratch, kneading the dough, rolling and wrapping. The dumplings are not eaten until midnight, as the Chinese characters for jiaozi refer to Chinese New Year happening at midnight.

It is believed that jiaozi brings fortune and good luck to those who eat it. During the festival, participants will be able to learn how to wrap their own jiaozi.
Tangyuan, or glutinous rice balls, will also be available for consumption.

“Tangyuan is eat[en] because it means ‘togetherness,’” Luc said. “Since it is made out of rice flour it tends to stick together, and they are served warm, so it is like bringing a family warmth.”

Fillings are always sweet and can include chocolate paste, a piece of sugarcane rock candy, fruit preserves or, more traditionally, sesame or red bean paste.

Participants in the event will be able to practice speaking Chinese with native Chinese speakers and will have a chance at an educational and tasty cross-cultural experience.

“I think I would like other PSU students to learn more how [Chinese New Year is] celebrated in China than here in the States, because, culturally, it’s really different,” Luc said.

The Confucius Institute will celebrate Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival at the PSU School of Business Building, room 490 and fourth floor lounge area at 631 SW Harrison St.