Welcoming the year of the Ox

Di Luo, Chair of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Birkbeck, reflects on this year’s virtual Chinese New Year celebration that took place on 15 February and what hopes the group has for the year of the Ox.

An ox hanging with some ornamentsThe year of the Ox began on Friday 12 of February 2021, and this is an especially exciting new year, as people all around the world cannot wait to say goodbye to the year of the Rat in which we have suffered heavily and lost due to the strike of COVID-19. The Ox is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, it represents values of reliability, strength, patience, and trustworthiness. People from all around the world have wished and hoped to see that this new year will start a new chapter in life and will defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday 15 February 2021, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Birkbeck University of London (BBK CSSA) hosted an online gathering event to spread good wishes to everyone and start to recruit its new community members. All students and scholars from all cultures and countries are welcome to join BBK CSSA.

Students and staff who attended the event were invited to share their new year wishes and targets, not surprisingly, after a long lockdown, everyone jointly wished to meet each other and come back to campus again once it is safe to do so. Indeed, since the first lockdown was issued by the UK government on 16 March 2020, the year of the Rat has been a memorable one for all of us. Students cannot attend school, people have to work from home, COVID-19 has physically separated us. However, distance cannot stop our hearts from growing closer and cannot stop our kindness and wishes. This is also one of the small goals that BBK CSSA hoped for its online gathering event on 15 February 2020.

Games and awards were also organised during the online event to bring more joy and fun. One of the games was to guess the correct Chengyu from the emojis. Chengyu is a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expression, most of which consists of four characters. Although they are widely used in Classical Chinese, but still very common in today’s Chinese speaking and writing.

One of the new year’s wishes that the BBK CSSA makes is that everyone can “niuqi chongtian” in the year of Ox. This is one of the most popular new year blessings Chengyu that every Chinese person says to each other. “Niuqi Chongtian” refers to the spirit of the Ox and means that with a strong faith in conquering any difficulties and challenges, life and work will both be awesome. BBK CSSA believes the spirit of the Ox will certainly bring the most blessings for the year of 2021 for us to look forward and move on. All the challenges and difficulties that we have had in 2020 are now in the past, we will not forget those precious things and the loved ones we lost. Our faith in life will not be stopped by this pandemic! Lastly, BBK CSSA wishes everyone in the year of 2021 “Niuqi Chongtian”!

 

 

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One World Festival: Lunar New Year Celebration

This blog was contributed by Fengzhi Zhao, who is reading a PhD in Applied Linguistics and is Chair of the Birkbeck Chinese Society; Kevin Lau, who is studying Management at Birkbeck and is the SU Postgraduate Officer; and La Young Jackson, International Liaison Officer at Birkbeck.  

Birkbeck students celebrating Lunar New Year

On January 24 2020the day before the Lunar New Year, a celebratory event was held at Birkbeck.  

London has a large international community and so here at Birkbeck, University of London we held our own Lunar New Year celebrations to celebrate the start of the Year of the Rat! As part of the One World FestivalLa Young from International Student Administration, Kevin from the Students’ Union, and Fengzhi from the Birkbeck Chinese Society teamed up and transformed an ordinary teaching room into a room of festive activities and fun!  

Lunar New Year is the most important festival in many Far East countries such as China, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. The event not only celebrated the festival for students, alumni and staff from these countries, but also provided a chance for those from other countries to experience the festival atmosphere of different culture. Students and staff had the opportunity to try various Asian snacks and drinks, with many snacks and decorations being directly shipped from Hong Kong, China.  

“With typical decorations such as Lucky Cat, Chinese couplets, and red lanterns, we are immersed in true Chinese New Year atmosphere”, said Fengzhi.  

There were many activities for students to participate. One activity was crafting Red Envelope Fish, which is commonly taught at primary school but can be easily be enjoyed by university students. As part of the New Year celebrations in China, in Mandarin, the word “fish” sounds similar to “surplus” and so it is considered to be auspicious and brings wealth to the person.  

Lucky red fish for Lunar New Year

It was a pleasure to introduce students to our traditions of celebrating the start of the New Year. I really appreciate all students from around the world taking an interest and understanding of why the colour red is so important to many of our cultures. And to all students, I wish them “学习进步” (progress in studies) and “金榜题名” (success in examination),” said Kevin. 

Students were also challenged to compete in a traditional Korean game of Jegichagi, where students would kick a jegi and keep it in the air for as long as possible. A feat that may be easy for those on the Birkbeck Football Team, but may be challenging for others!

Red envelope giving is a traditional Chinese gift that contains money and is given during holidays and special occasions. This tradition is about bestowing good luck and fortune to others. Students were shown how to make their own red envelopes and to write their own messages of good luck and fortune to those they wish to bestow fortune to, but were also given a more modern red envelope shipped directly from Hong Kong. Everyone who attended the event left with a red envelope with (chocolate) coins!

And so from all of us here at Birkbeck, we hope everyone will have a great Lunar New Year!

Fengzhi and Kevin

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