Georgia’s Chinese-American population took root when laborers came to Augusta in 1873 to dig a canal. They opened shops and gradually became part of the community, but they never forgot their traditions. One of the most festive and biggest holidays is Chinese New Year that begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar in late January or early February. According to tradition, this day sets the tone for the following year so people are careful to wear new clothes, eat good foods, and say the right things. Ellen Chiang, an instructor at the Atlanta Chinese School, explains some of the customs such as the lion dance intended to scare away evil spirits. Children get red envelopes of lucky money to put under their pillows on New Year’s Eve to give to ghosts who might visit and want to stay. Several Chinese arts such as pottery, calligraphy, and painting are demonstrated. It is a joyous celebration as young and old share the customs and culture of their homeland.
Teacher tip: Ask the class to brainstorm and list all the customs associated with New Year’s Eve in this country. When finished, compare them to the Chinese customs shown in this Georgia Story. Are any of them similar? How are they different? Ask students to write a paragraph explaining why it is important for different cultures to maintain their traditions as well as to share them with others.