On Jan. 26, 2009, the general Chinese population had more to think about than just another Monday. It was a day of celebration, of welcoming a brand new year. Qi Fu, a graduate student in educational psychology, generously shared her experiences revolving around what is commonly termed "the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays".
It is the Year of the Ox, last seen in 1997. The Ox is a power symbol symbolizing prosperity through hard work.
"The Ox year means a lot to me, and my mother, because she and I were both born in an Ox year," said Fu.
It's kind of like this year is our year" -Qi Fu
In honor of the Chinese New Year, a Knoxville celebration was held on Saturday evening for two and a half hours at the Alumni Memorial Building. According to Fu's guess, approximately 400 people showed up to watch various groups perform. Groups such as Wahlum Kung Fu (Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu of Knoxville), the East TN Chinese School, Knoxville Chinese Church School, and the Chinese Students Association.
Fu was born in Beijing and is an international student who came to America last August. This was the first New Year spent away from her home country, and she spent it with only her boyfriend.
She said, "In the past our families did come together to cook New Year's Eve dinner and watch the celebration performance on TV."
Fu's family also used to shoot off fireworks, until a government policy restricted the allowable area and time frame for shooting them off. "We lost our interest of doing that then," she added.
In regards to food, Fu pointed out that there are "so many kinds of Chinese dishes" but that her family has always enjoyed eating her favorite: dumplings.
With my mind dancing around oriental meals, I ventured out to the new Asian supermarket, Sunshine Supermarket, located on Kingston between Gallaher View and Walker Springs. I wanted to find out more about the grocery store that Fu said she goes to one to three times per week.
It looked tiny in comparison to a Wal*Mart or Kroger, but when considering that each row was stock full of foreign goods it seemed much larger. Sunshine Supermarket carried items that only a non-American market would: cow feet for $1.29/lb, Kimbo-brand dumplings for $2.99 each, soft-shell turtle for $6.65, grouper fish head, dried instant cuttle fish, and packaged jellyfish.
As a rather non-adventurous eater, I sought any type of food that appealed to my non-cultured senses. I found gigantic cream wafers, cookies, multi-grain crackers, and even a 4lb jar of Jif-brand peanut butter for $4.99.
Fu commented that the supermarket is "huge" and said, "I can find almost everything I need there, maybe not in my favorite brand [as] in China. . . [but] I think many of them are directly imported from China, so I'm familiar with them."
Staring from behind the seafood counter were lobsters in tanks; located in the display cases were many kinds of fish and shrimp.
I gave into purchasing a Pineapple Bun from the Oriental Bakery, (yes I realize this may not be the most "un-American item") and at the checkout lane I asked about the amount of customers they had around the Chinese New Year.
Jade Hung, the bagger, told me that the place was really crowded, especially on New Year's Eve. She said that most people bought various types of vegetables and decorative red envelopes.
It has now been more than a week since the advent of the Year of the Ox, and with devotion and hard work, we can anticipate universal prosperity.
Fu added, "We all hope for health, happiness and good luck in this whole year, and also, [that] the economic depression will be gone quickly!"