The year of the dragon is upon us.
Sunday evening marked the official transition from the year of the rabbit to the year of the dragon, a revered sign among Chinese people.
There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, including the rooster, horse, ox, and monkey, but the dragon is the only mythical creature.
The motto of the year of the dragon is “I reign,” it is associated with the color red and its gemstone is the ruby.
Suker Jiang, 31, a manager at Tony’s Asian Fusion in Mattituck, moved to the United States from China 10 years ago. He said the upcoming year is considered particularly special to his culture.
“The Chinese people call the emperor ‘the dragon’ so it’s very good luck,” Mr. Jiang said. He said there’s a basic misunderstanding between the Chinese and Americans over the dragon symbol.
“Americans see the dragon as a monster, a people-eater, but not in China,” he said. In mythology not only do dragons not eat people, they get along with all animals, he said. The creatures represent good luck, strength and power, making it an attractive sign to be born under, he added.
“The dragon children are special,” Mr. Jiang said. “People want to have babies in dragon years because they want to bring auspicious children — children who bring good luck — to the Asian empire.”
George Wei, a Riverhead resident who emigrated from China 23 years ago, said people get together and party on the Chinese New Year’s Eve.
“But since we don’t have an official holiday for the Chinese New Year here, we’ll just make some good food to eat,” he said. “It’s not like Times Square. People normally just watch TV and stay home.”
He said the Chinese zodiac symbols are “not really serious, it’s just fun. For example, if you belong to the rooster, maybe you wake up early. If you belong to the rooster, maybe you can’t sit still.”
Mr. Wei, a research engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, gives presentations on ancient Chinese culture and traditions at local schools, libraries and colleges.
“We talk about Chinese history, how the culture was lost because of the cultural revolution and how performing arts have brought that lost culture back,” he said. He said he’s learned much about traditional Chinese culture, “20 dynasties’ worth,” from Shen Yun, a five-day Chinese New Year celebration held at Lincoln Center every year. “This is stuff you cannot learn overnight,” he said.
In China, relatives and friends visit with one another on New Year’s Day. “But only for 10 minutes to exchange candy and say hello” because some people visit with as many as 20 families, Mr. Wei said. “Closer families might take longer.”
The dumpling is the main food staple of the Chinese New Year. “The dumpling means that you will get people together to enjoy life,” Mr. Wei said.