Princetom immigrant celebrates Chinese New Year

New China Buffet employee Ivan Lee is seen in front of wall posters at the restaurant that inform about the Chinese New Year.

Ivan Lee, an immigrant from China residing in Princeton, still holds onto at least one custom from his homeland of China – the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese New Year holiday is a traditional time for the Chinese to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors and bring family members together for feasting.

Lee celebrated the Chinese New Year on the eve of it. This year the Chinese New Year began on Jan. 23. He celebrated the holiday with family members in the late hours of the night at the New China Buffet where he works in downtown Princeton.

The start of the Chinese New Year varies but it is within the first two months of the calendar that most Americans go by. The start of the Chinese New Year is determined by the Chinese lunar and solar calendar. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the major holiday in China.

Each of the Chinese years has a Chinese astrological animal name. This year it is the dragon.

The website states that some call the Chinese year in 2012 the year of the black dragon or water dragon. It also notes that 2012 is the 4,709th Chinese year.

Lee immigrated to the United States from the province of Fujian, China, in 2006, stopping first in New York for two months, before coming to Princeton where he has remained. Lee, 25,and his wife Candy, married this year.

Lee works in all the job positions at the restaurant.

He explained how he and four or five other family members and friend Richard, who also works at the New China, celebrated the arrival of the Chinese New Year the night before at the restaurant eating, listening to music and socializing. The meal had a lot of seafood including lobster and crab. But the best part was the visiting with each other, he said. So far since being in the United States, Lee has celebrated the Chinese New Year six times.

Lee explains that the celebration takes place over a series of days. They are:

• First day of the Chinese New Year – Welcoming the heavens and earth and abstaining from meat. The abstinence from meat that first day is meant to “ensure long and happy lives,” he agreed.

• Second day – He said he does some or all of the following on that day: praying to ancestors and gods and being especially kind to dogs.

• Third and fourth days– Paying respect to the family in-laws.

He still participates in the lantern festival, which is on the 14th day into the Chinese New Year. It involves hanging red paper lanterns lit by candles.

Lee notes that if he were still in China he would have participated in even more Chinese New Year activities during the approximately dozen days of the celebration, starting with the arrival of the Chinese New Year. That would have included visiting family members and relatives on the sixth day into the Chinese New Year and visiting temples to pray for good fortune and health. He pointed out how on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year in China, farmers display their produce and make a drink from seven different vegetables to drink for the celebration. The seventh day is considered the birthday of human beings and that noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish is eaten for success.

Lee said the feasting is part of giving thanks for what the family has and noted that some highlight it with a religious ceremony. Lee said he is a Buddhist.

He mentioned that some customers have asked about the Chinese New Year and that the staff at New China attached information about the holiday on a wall between the outer and inner entrance doors.

It has information on the Chinese Zodiac signs, which assigns animal names for certain years that a person is born in.

Lee says he misses China, mainly missing his three grandparents, other family members and lots of friends. Lee is likely reminded of them at this time of year as he and family members here observe some of the Chinese New Year customs.

For all people who might be interested in Chinese astrology, persons born this year will have the Chinese zodiac sign of the dragon as will anyone born in the years, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, and 2000.

If you are contemplating involvement with a person with the dragon Chinese zodiac sign, you might want to heed some information from the website, with its link to the dragon subject. It states that dragons do not like taking orders, unnecessary bureaucracy, discounted ideas, and people who don’t give 100 percent.