LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 10, 2012 – For Cast Members at Epcot’s China Pavilion, the 15-day celebration of Chinese New Year from Jan. 23 – Feb. 9 presented a unique opportunity to share their culture with Guests from Central Florida and around the world.
“Guests ask us all the time about celebrating Chinese New Year,” said Sky Ng, a Cast Member from Macau. “I tell them it’s just like Christmas here in the United States. We celebrate the season for weeks and it’s a period where our families come together. And of course, it’s a special time for young people because of the ‘red packets.'”
“Red packets” refers to the tradition throughout the Chinese New Year of handing out red envelopes with money in them to younger generations by their parents, grandparents, relatives, and even close neighbors and friends after the young people express good wishes for them in the coming year.
Joyce Cheng, a Cast Member from Hong Kong, says the easiest way to explain the ‘red packets’ and other traditions of the Chinese New Year to Guests is for them to think about the entire celebration as all the U.S. holiday traditions rolled into 15 days.
“I tell Guests to think of the 7th day of the Chinese New Year as your birthday. It’s everybody’s birthday as we bring in a new year. Everyone’s a year older,” said Cheng. “The 15th day of Chinese New Year is celebrated in many places just like Valentine’s Day is here. It’s a very special day and Guests can relate to that.”
For Isabella Wang, a Cast Member from Shenyang in the northern part of China, celebrating Chinese New Year when she was growing up was all about fireworks and a large, traditional Chinese meal with friends and family. This year at Epcot was no different.
“The Cast here at the China Pavilion came together backstage for a big lunch at the start of Chinese New Year and we had some of the most authentic Chinese food I’ve ever tasted in the United States,” said Wang. “At night, we went to the home of one of our Cast Members and celebrated in her community with her family and neighbors. And there were some fireworks.”
That Cast Member, June Lee from Taiwan, has been sharing her culture with Disney Guests for 15 years. She’s referred to as “June Ma” by the other Cast Members visiting from China for the way she acts as a mother figure to younger Cast Members so far from home.
“I hosted all of the Chinese pavilion Cast Members for a Chinese New Year meal and party at my home so they had that celebration,” said Lee.
Did she help her fellow Cast Members celebrate any other Chinese New Year traditions?
With a smile, Lee said “I gave all of them ‘red packets.”