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Posted on Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Chinese New Year serves as a good reminder to celebrate diversity

By Tom Watkins


15-year-old Hao Hao Wang, left, and 12-year-old Yoyo Pao, right, act in the Lohan Teasing Lion program of the Chinese New Year Celebration at Washtenaw Community College in 2012. file photo

No, the "year of the snake" is not a reference to politics.

Most Michiganders welcomed the New Year several weeks ago. But the tradition of our Chinese friends and neighbors celebrates the new year beginning on Feb. 10.

Michigan, though we are two beautiful peninsulas surrounded by 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, that does not make us an island. As a bell weather state, leading the way on social and political issues of the day, we historically have embraced new cultures and traditions of people who make Michigan their home.

I am proud to say that Gov. Rick Synder grasps the importance of being open to the peoples of the world and has dubbed himself, “the most immigrant friendly governor in America.” Considering all the anti-immigration rhetoric that permeates in some political quarters, here is one aspect of the governor we should all respect. Michigan’s diversity has been and will remain a core strength of our state and nation.

This great state has been built on the diversity of people who came from all across the globe - Germany, Italy, Poland, England, Ireland, Norway, Wales, Italy, Spain and Africa. Those from nearly all corners of the planet have been absorbed into our tapestry of strength. Some arrived in America in search of a better life while some were ripped from their ancestral homes and forced to make this new world their home.

Celebrating our differences makes us collectively stronger

The Chinese New Year 4711 begins on Feb. 10. The Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration on the Chinese calendar.

2013 is an especially auspicious year — ushering in the Year of the Snake.

Handed down since ancient times, legend has it that Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve different animals came and Buddha declared that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that creature’s personality.

The characteristics of the Snake are tempered by one of the five Chinese elements of earth, fire, metal, water and wood overlaying a five-year cycle of characteristics on the original 12-year cycle. This year is the year of the water snake.

While Dragon is considered the most powerful and lucky among the 12 Chinese zodiac creatures, the snake most resembles the dragon in appearance and is sometimes called the "Little Dragon."

It is likely some of the aura of the powerful Dragon rubbed off onto the person born in the Year of the Snake and considered likely that success follows the person born in the Year of the Snake during “their” year.

Great opportunities may be presented in the Year of the Snake so persons born in these years (1929, 1941, 1953, 1966, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013) might maximize their considerable skills, guarding against complacency and indifference.

Those born in snake years are acute, aware, wise, charming, cunning, gregarious, generous, and smart. Water Snakes are influential and insightful. They manage others well to help achieve their aims and goals. Good in organizations, they are generally motivated and intellectual, very determined and resolute about success.

Did I mention I was born in the Year of the Snake?

Others who share the honor of being a ‘Snake person’ include: Brad Pitt, Bob Dylan, Oprah Winfrey, Virginia Woolf, Greta Garbo and Mao.

Here in a state surrounded by the waters of the Great Lakes, let the Chinese New Year create another reminder that with diversity, comes strength.

So, happy New Year, congratulations and be prosperous!

Tom Watkins interest in China was sparked by his fourth grade teacher. He has been working to build two-way educational, cultural and economic bridges with China his entire adult life. He is a former Michigan state superintendent of schools and now is a US/China business and educational consultant. He can be reached at


Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

Let's try that link again:

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

The Ann Arbor Chinese Center of Michigan Chinese New Year's Celebration (pictured in the above photo) will be this Saturday, February 9, 2013, at WCC. Children's games 1-3, student performances 3-6, Chinese New Year's Eve dinner featuring specialties of area restaurants 6-9. Hope to see you there!


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:53 a.m.

I did some digging and did find out that it is this weekend. We are going to try to get our tickets early. I heard this was a sell out last year.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

We missed that Chinese event last year and are wondering if that same event is going on again this year? Otherwise, rats, I missed it again.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

What are some of the events celebrating Chinese New Year this year?

Jay Thomas

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 10:18 a.m.

Thanks for writing this. I was unaware of diversity but now I see the light.

Dog Guy

Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

Thanks to the late Professor Crump's Sinology courses, I know a proper pronunciation for that snake, Mao: "mousy dung".