The Year of the Tiger


While those using the westernized Gregorian calendar celebrated the new year a month ago, many who still honor the lunar calendar have just started their festivities. For those who don’t know what either of these calendar systems are, it can be pretty confusing. The calendar many see on a daily basis is called the Gregorian calendar, standardized by Pope Gregory the 13th and based on the sun, while the lunar calendar is more common in eastern cultures and is based on the phases of the moon. This means that while the Gregorian New Year happens on the same day every year, January 1st, the equivalent lunar year shifts. This year it landed on the 1st of February.


Celebrations began the weekend before and will last until the first full moon of the year, February 15th. People take to the streets, creating elaborate lanterns and lights to usher in the season. These lights are such a large part of the season that people also refer to this time as the Lantern Festival. However, those lights are not just for show. In various mythologies across the eastern world, people believe that monsters emerge during the New Year to devour villagers and the only way to scare them off is with loud noises and flashing lights. 


For the past week people across the world have been making a ruckus and waving their lights to bring in the year of the Tiger. While the western zodiac has twelve signs that change with the months, the eastern zodiac has a twelve year cycle. Each year in the cycle gets an animal that the people born in that year are meant to emulate, whether it’s a rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, or pig. Those born this year are believed to grow into brave, confident, and competitive people. The tiger is an animal of action, much like the lion of western cultures.


It is important to understand this celebration because it plays such a fundamental part in so many lives, both across the world and here at College Park. The Chinese cultural and language classes have their own little celebrations during this time, and many students celebrate at home. This is a time for new starts, being with friends and family alike. While it may be different from what some students are accustomed to, taking the time to appreciate this vital piece of culture is important.