Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Gong Xi Fa Cai! Celebrating Chinese New Year
(photo source: google)
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Kung Hey Fat Choi!
Cross-posting an entry here to mark this especial event
which started on January 26...Chinese new year.
The year of the Ox.
Some snippets of information about Chinese New Year. It might interest you.
The 15-Day Celebration of Chinese New Year
The first day of the Lunar New Year is "the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth."Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the new year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them.
On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs.
The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law.
The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits families and friends on the fifth day because it will bring both parties bad luck.
On the sixth to the 10th day, the Chinese visit their relatives and friends freely. They also visit the temples to pray for good fortune and health.
The seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. These farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion. The seventh day is also considered the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success.
On the eighth day the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner, and at midnight they pray to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.
The ninth day is to make offerings to the Jade Emperor.
The 10th through the 12th are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner. After so much rich food, on the 13th day you should have simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) to cleanse the system.
The 14th day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is to be held on the 15th night.
Chinese New Year
Gong xi fa cai !
Kung hsi fa tsai !
Best wishes and congratulations!
Best wishes for health and prosperity!
Have a good year!"
For thousands of years, the Chinese have celebrated a new year as a spring celebration. Chinese New Year is still sometimes called Spring Festival. It is held after the fall harvest and before the start of the spring planting season and brings hopes for a good harvest in the year to come.
The Chinese use a calendar based on the phases of the moon. A new moon is the beginning of a month. A full moon is the middle of a month. This is called a lunar calendar, and it is calculated by the time it takes the moon to travel around the earth. (By comparison, the Gregorian calendar which we use is based on the time it takes the earth to circle the sun). Chinese New Year is the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. Each year the holiday falls sometime between January 21st and February 19th.
The Chinese name their years using 12 different animals to stand for each year. After 12 years, the cycle of animals begins again.
Calendar Date Zodiac Animal Chinese Year
February 9, 2005 Rooster 4703
January 29, 2006 Dog 4704
February 18, 2007 Boar 4705
February 7, 2008 Rat 4706
January 26, 2009 Ox 4707
February 10, 2010 Tiger 4708
Long ago there was a Chinese legend that said that a terrible monster or giant lived in the mountains and would come down at the end of the year and terrorize people and animals or even kill them all. It was discovered that the monster was frightened by loud noises, bright lights, and the color red. This is one of the reasons that the Chinese New Year has many loud firecrackers, bright fireworks and lanterns, and the color red is seen everywhere.
The Chinese New Year is sometimes just celebrated on the actual new year's day--or preparations for the holiday might be made for weeks before and the celebration might extend for many days after the actual new year's day. It ends with the Golden Dragon Parade.
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To prepare for the Chinese New Year, many families:
• Clean their places of business a week before the holiday. Families also clean their homes. This symbolizes sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new. Once the New Year celebration begins, it is thought to be bad luck to clean until the celebration is over because good luck arrives with the new year. If houses are cleaned, the good luck might get swept out or scrubbed away.
• Put away all their scissors and knives because they might cut their newly arrived luck.
• Decorate homes with fresh flowers and small trees for the new year celebration. Different trees and flowers have special meanings that bring good luck.
• Hang special pictures called Nian hua. These are banners that say "Good Luck".
• Hang paper scrolls on the wall that have special good luck poems written on them. These poems are always hung in pairs and are also on red paper. They are called spring couplets and offer good wishes for happiness, wealth, longevity, etc.
• Put a plate of oranges in the center of their table because this is considered to be good luck. The oranges are stacked in the shape of a pyramid. Red apples are also a symbol of good luck.
• Remember the tradition of the kitchen god because it is an important part of Chinese New Year. It is an old belief that the kitchen god is a spirit that lives in homes. The job of the kitchen god is to give a report back to the Jade Emperor (the king of the gods) about how the family has behaved for the past year. The kitchen god leaves the house on the 23rd day of the last month of the year. On this night, the family leaves a special meal for the kitchen god. They may have a small altar or picture of the kitchen god in their kitchen. Families place sweet treats near the altar so the kitchen god will say only sweet things about them. Sometimes they leave sticky foods for him to "stick" his mouth shut so he cannot tell the Jade Emperor anything bad. They offer a prayer and then burn the picture of the kitchen god to symbolize his departure and then set off firecrackers. The noise of the firecrackers makes the kitchen god leave. He returns on the first day of the new year.
• Buy new clothes for the new year.
• Get a haircut during this time because it is believed that this will bring good luck for the next 12 months.
• Hang different kinds of red decorations everywhere because red is a color of good luck.
• Make sure that all their debts are paid.
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On New Year's Eve, many families:
• Gather together with extended relatives.
• Have a big, special meal with special foods.
• Seal their windows to seal in good luck.
• Take a long bath because they do not wash on New Year's Day.
• Stay up all night.
• Let the children stay up as late as they can because it is believed that the longer the children stay up, the longer their parents will live.
• Set off fireworks to scare away evil spirits. The door guardians, Chi'in Ch'iung and Yu-chih Kung, make sure that the evil spirits leave and only good spirits enter.
• Welcome the kitchen god back into their home at midnight by setting off fireworks.
• Give gifts of good luck money in special red envelopes called Ya Sui Quain. This is called "suppressing age" money and is supposed to stop children from getting older.
• Visit temples to pray for their ancestors and to pray for good fortune.
• Send special New Year's cards to friends and relatives.
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On New Year's Day, many families:
• Break the seals around their doors and windows.
• Are careful about what they say and do and have the best of manners. This is because it is believed that what happens on New Year's Day will decide what the family's luck will be for the rest of the year.
• Wear new clothes.
• Do not wash or take baths so that good luck won't be washed away.
• Visit relatives and friends and bring gifts of plants, flowers, or food.
• Gamble because this is the only time that this is acceptable.
• Try not to break anything because this will bring bad luck.
• Eat special foods like candied lotus seed which stand for good luck to bring many children (especially sons) into the family, candied coconut which stands for togetherness, and candied melon which stands for good growth and good health. A food called Eight Precious Rice or Laba is often eaten. It is made up of sticky rice containing eight different things that represent jewels. Most of the foods eaten for this celebration have special meanings and stand for new year's wishes.
• Eat sweet dumplings that are shaped like shoes. Sometimes coins are hidden in the dumplings.
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On the days following New Year's Day, many families:
• Continue visiting relatives and friends.
• Attend Chinese opera.
• Visit temples to pray for peace and success.
• Light joss sticks for good luck.
• Burn incense for the birthday of the Jade Emperor who is the king of all the gods.
• Use fortune sticks to predict their future.
• Watch lion dancers which go up and down streets and scare away evil spirits.
• Participate in or watch the Golden Dragon Parade which is about 2 weeks after New Year's Day. During and after the parade, thousands of fireworks are set off. The parade has marching bands, people carrying banners with pictures of the animal which represents the new year, acrobats, and dancers. The dancers wear paper heads of lions, cats, roosters, monkeys, and clowns. There are many people walking on stilts. At the end of the parade is the dragon. The dragon is a symbol of strength and goodness. The appearance of the dragon is a way of wishing everyone peace, good fortune, and good luck for the coming year.
• Participate in or watch the Lantern Festival which takes place on the first full moon of the month. Many different kinds of lanterns shaped like animals are carried along the streets in long processions to scare away evil spirits.
I found one entry which says one should wear new slippers or shoes so one could step on the toes of the people who are spreading 'Chismiss' rumours about you. This is cute! Hey, boot up!