This year’s lunar new year ushers in ‘one of the best’ with year of the dragon

A woman poses for a photo in front of a large dragon figure
A woman holds a small dragon toy in front of a large dragon figure for the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival at a park in a local historic area in Beijing, China.
Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

The lunar new year on Feb. 10 kicks off the year of the dragon. The dragon comes with the most elaborate stories and lore. And this time of year for many Minnesotans, is also a time of preparation for all that the new year can bring.

Joseph Lin, a Chinese teacher at Central Senior High School in St. Paul, says some “consider this as one of the best years to look forward to.” That’s because of the dragon’s association with prosperity and power.

Lin shared more about the stories around the dragon and the traditions for the new year with MPR host Tom Crann.

To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above. The following transcription has been edited for length and clarity.

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What’s the mythology behind the year of the Dragon and how does it determine whether this year is a special one?

The dragon is a wonderful symbol in Chinese culture. It symbolizes the power, the strength, the intelligence and also the fortune. Because of that, the Chinese consider this as one of the best years to look forward to.

What are the stories for the dragon?

Dragon is a powerful symbol. It brings the water and China has been an agricultural country for thousands of years. So, the animals that can bring the water in means the animal will help the country, the people to raise enough crops, enough good quality food to feed everybody.

So, the dragon is a symbol of life and that’s why the Chinese like the year of the dragon so much.

How is the lunar new year determined? Why is it on Feb. 10th this year?

In Chinese culture, we use the lunar calendar to count the start and the procession of the year. And this year, January first of Chinese new year’s day is equivalent to Feb. 10.

Tell me about how to best prepare for the new year especially the year of the dragon. What are you doing?

We do a lot of fun things to celebrate new year including all kinds of celebration, performance like lion dance, dragon dances. We eat decent food for sure and also people get together to have a family reunion. In Chinese culture, we like to give the red envelope with money in there to wish people to become prosperous for the upcoming year.

What’s your favorite tradition for the new year?

My favorite one is to eat dumplings. The reason for that is — well, for sure, dumplings taste good and also in Chinese mind, dumplings have a shape of ancient Chinese money. Eating it, the Chinese have that kind of feeling that the upcoming year will be a very prosperous one.

I was born in the year of the snake. What will the year be like for me?

The snake is a smart animal. It knows how to adapt themselves to the environment. That means people born into the year of the snake could live a good life because they know how to live with the environment. They are a good friend to all the people. Actually, the snake in Chinese culture is called small dragon and it’s a symbol. Chinese like the year of the snake as well.