Bahai News -- Daily Herald - Growing diversity reflected in new year events beyond Jan. 1

Growing diversity reflected in new year events beyond Jan. 1

By Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted on February 01, 2003

She celebrated the start of 2003 with friends and family on Jan. 1 but today Clara Lee is celebrating again - this time it's 4701, the Year of the Ram.

Lee, who teaches at Jefferson Elementary School in Hoffman Estates, is among thousands of Korean and Chinese residents who are ringing in the new year lunar style.

The celebration usually lasts about 15 days, from the new moon to the full moon.

The new year in Asian cultures is based on the lunar calendar and astronomical observations. The celebration takes place at the sighting of the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Because the suburbs are becoming increasingly diverse, these celebrations are just part of a variety of new year festivities recognized by international and varied religious communities.

For instance, people from Laos celebrate in April; Ethiopians ring in the new year in September and some Hindus follow in October or November, depending on the moon. Those in the Bahá'í faith will say Happy New Year on March 21, Muslims will celebrate on March 3 and this year the Jewish community will commemorate Rosh Hashanah, its new year, on Sept. 27.

For many, the festivities are one way to introduce friends and neighbors to their culture.

At Jefferson, Lee's English as a Second Languages students who hail from Japan, China and the Korea peninsula, created a dragon to celebrate the new year. Legend has it the dragon brings luck to all who are near it so the youngsters took the dragon to various classrooms within the school on Friday.

"I just want to let them experience the new year and share this excitement with us," Lee said.

While schoolchildren often are taught about the various holidays and cultural differences, adults often have to seek out the information.

Lisle resident Ed Paulson was among a group of suburban business people who trekked to the city recently to learn more about the Chinese culture and its new year's traditions.

"To assume that any other culture is like ours is a mistake," Paulson said, adding that too often people do not bridge the gap of culture diversity.

Through a 10-course Chinese banquet presented by China native Amy Lee Segami, of Chicago, he and others learned about the history, customs and legend of the Chinese New Year, proper etiquette and tips for effectively interacting with the Chinese.

For instance, Paulson said he'll be extra careful next time he drafts a business proposal because he now knows the Chinese consider certain numbers to bring good luck and others bad.

Segami, who will hold a similar workshop on Feb. 9, said she expects a tremendous surge in interest about China as it continues to blossom in the business industry.

"It's easy for people to learn more," she said. "They don't have to take a 14-hour flight to China. They can just take an hour's drive to Chinatown (in Chicago)."

There, she said, people can embrace the people, food and culture of China.

Suburban residents can learn more about all Asian cultures next month when the Asian community hosts its 20th annual combined lunar new year's celebration. This year's event is slated for March 1 in Rosemont.

• For details on Segami's next Chinese banquet, call (312) 573-4698. For details on the Rosemont celebration, call (630) 961-5681.

Chinese: Interest in China growing

©Copyright 2003, Daily Herald (Chicago, IL, USA)

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