Wednesday, December 23, 2009
CHINESE NEW YEAR
Chinese New Year is a time to remember the family and wish everyone peace and prosperity in the coming year. It is also a special time to remember members of the family who have died.
Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the New Year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern display and children carrying lantern in a parade.
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. (Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family). Typically, families gather at a designated relative's house for dinner, but these days, many families often celebrate New Year's Eve dinner at a restaurant.
Chinese New Year may be a time for friends, family and fun, but is also a time for foreboding as the festival is riddled with superstitions. The Chinese, place much stock in the rites and rituals in make sure the year doesn't land your in the sewer.
While many Chinese people today may not believe in these do's and don'ts, these traditions and customs are still practiced. These traditions and customs are kept because most families realize that it is these very traditions, whether believed or not, that provide continuity with the past and provide the family with an identity.
❋ Activities Dos and Don'ts During Chinese New Year ❋
❦ No sweeping of floors for the first few days of Chinese New Year - sweep away the good luck and fortune of the family === but there is a specific way to sweep after the New Year's Day == sweep from the entrance to the home which is normally the door to the center of the house. The dust and rubbish that's been swept should be kept in a corner, untouched and only to be thrown out from the backdoor of the house on the fifth day of the Chinese New Year.
❦ Be careful and don't break any objects, especially breakables like glass in the home during Chinese New Year - considered bad luck === If something gets broken, immediately say "lua di hoi fa" 落地开花 (flower blossoms when it touches the floor) to reverse any bad luck
❦ No swearing or saying of negative and inauspicious words (or what you say may just come true!)
❦ Conversely, say a lot of auspicious greetings, especially when visiting friends and relatives
❦ Among the Chinese New Year activities, the most important is called Chinese New Year Greeting "Kong Hee Fatt Choy"
❦ Everyone puts on their new clothes and visit their relatives and friends over the next two weeks - wear bright colors like red and yellow, as they are considered happy and bright colors that bring in luck. Don't ever wear black on Chinese New Year as black is considered the color of mourning
❦ People bring along a bag of two big tangerines and enclose an ang pow when they go on visits anytime during the two-weeks long Chinese New Year celebrations as this brings luck to the household
❦ At each house, married adults give red packets to visiting children and anyone who is not yet married
❦ Delicacies with lucky name have been prepared to serve guests
❦ Welcome in the New Year with a blast of fresh air. Open all the windows is said to let in good luck.
❦ It is considered unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom, that is why everyone, even the sick, should get dressed and sit in the living room.
❦ It is said that hair-cutting or nail clipping during the first few days of Chinese New Year is prohibited. As hairs and nails are inherited from parents and the cutting of hair or nail during the first few days may shorten the parents life of cause ill-health.
❦ Avoid washing your hair on the first and last day of the New Year. - wash away good luck
❦ No splashing of water out of the house as water symbolizes "Money" and thus splashing water out of the house means throwing money away
☺ Before Chinese New Year ☺
➻ Da Sao Chu 大扫除 -- Clean the house == According to old customs, on the 28th day of the last month of a year (lunar calendar), the house should be cleaned to embrace the coming new year. In Chinese, the chen (尘, meaning dust) shares the same pronunciation with chen (陈, meaning old). Therefore, cleaning the house means getting rid of the old and bad luck in the ending year and welcomes in the new and good luck in the New Year.
➻ Send greeting cards -- Greeting cards with New Year wishes are sent to friends, relatives and colleagues. Remember to
➻ Shopping -- Young and old go on a shopping spree to buy New Clothes 新衣服 for the whole family, food and delicacies, and festive home decorations. Remember to get some red packet ready.
➻ Decorate the house
❄❄❄ Chunlian 春联 -- New Year couplets / spring festival scrolls are used to frighten away devils and pray for good fortune. (In ancient times, the Spring Couplets were originally made of peach wood by talisman) Most scrolls are red; some are orange with wishes inscribed in black or gold. Families hang spring couplets on both sides of the door to usher in good wishes for the New Year.
❄❄❄ Denglong 灯笼 – Lantern. We're seeing more and more red lanterns lately, not only in the big shopping malls, but also in houses.
❄❄❄ Bianpao 鞭炮 – Firecracker. The thunder of firecrackers marks the advent of the Lunar New Year. In the past, at midnight, citizens would let off firecrackers and scraps of red paper were left on the ground across the entire neighborhood reminding you that another New Year was coming. In recent years, explosive incidents involving firecrackers have led to a ban. However, children in the countryside can still enjoy traditional firecrackers
❄❄❄ Paste paper cuts of “fook” 福, happy children and tangerine oranges on the walls.
❧ Plants and Flowers for the Chinese New Year ❧
Every traditional Chinese household should have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high position in one's career. (You're lucky if your home plant blooms on the New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. Living plants symbolize growth.
❉ Daffodils 水仙花 are big bold happy flowers and that's why they embody good fortune and prosperity, quite apart from beautifying and bringing pleasant aromas to the house. "Hua Kai Fu Gui" means flower blossoms bringing riches and honor.
❉ Peach blossom 桃花 is always a favorite. Delicate pink petals, red Lishi (lucky packages) and green lights dangling on branches, create a warm scene in the coldest house. Singles bring peach blossoms home, to be assured of a romance in the following years
❉ Plum blossoms can be arranged together with bamboo and pine sprigs, the grouping symbolizing friends and en-dash; also signifies reliability and perseverance; the bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility and its flexible stems for furniture and other articles; the evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness.
❉ Other favorite flowers are pussy willow, azalea, peony and water lily or narcissus. Chinese people believe that without flowers, there would not be any fruit. Therefore, flowers and floral decorations are a "must-have" in the home during Chinese New Year.
❉ Feng Che 风筝 – Windmill say bring good fortune to the family. The good luck they bring will last for the whole year
Chinese New Year Traditions
❖ Shooting off firecrackers on New Year's Eve - way of bidding the old year goodbye and welcoming the New Year.
❖ Rice urn filled to the brim and refrigerator should be filled with food and drinks - the New Year will be prosperous and need not worry of hunger.
❖ All debts must be paid by New Year's Day. Nothing should be lent on this day - anyone who does so will be lending all the year.
❖ One should not use bad language, unlucky words, negative terms - will be respected all year round.
❖ The first person one meets and the first words heard are important - significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year.
❖ Never cry on New Year's Day - if you do so then the year will be sorrowful.
❖ Never wash your hair or clean the house - for fear that good luck will be clean away.
✰ Symbolic Food ✰
Probably more food is consumed during the New Year celebrations than any other time of the year. On New Year's Day, the Chinese family will eat a vegetarian dish called 'Jai'.
❁ Lettuce - in Chinese sounds like 'making money' (the action of wrapping food in lettuce leave carries the meaning of 'Definitely having a baby soon', good for newly weds).
❁ Dried meat, fish, duck - symbolize that we need not worry about having three meals a day
❁ Stuffed mince meat with dried oyster - symbolize good thing to come, good business and better productivity
❁ Black moss seaweed (Fatt Choy) - symbolize prosperity and better earning
❁ Green veggie - symbolize better profit and expansion of business
❁ Oranges - symbolize full of gold
❁ Apple - symbolize safe and sound
❁ New Year Cake (Lin Guo) - symbolize improvement all year round
❁ Peanuts - symbolize lots of grandchildren
❁ Sunflower seeds (Kua Chi) - symbolize one will thank of you always
❁ Lotus seed - signify having many male offspring
❁ Ginkgo Nut (hang ngan) - represents silver ingots
❁ Dried bean curd (toh gun) - fulfillment of wealth and happiness
❁ Bamboo shoots (chuk soon) - sound like "wishing that everything would be well"
❁ Walnut - carries the meaning "Happiness of the Entire Family"
❁ Cashew Nuts - its shape symbolizes the "Gold Bar" of ancient times
☆☆☆ Fresh bean curd or tofu is not included is it is white and unlucky for New Year as the color signifies death and misfortune. ☆☆☆
❁ Whole fish - to represent togetherness and abundance
❁ Whole chicken - for prosperity - must be with head, tail and feet - to symbolize completeness
❁ Noodles - should be uncut, as they represent long life
❁ Prawn - the pronunciation of prawn in Chinese sounds like the laughing sound, and thus carries the meaning "Happiness"
❁ Abalone - carries the meaning "Definite Good Fortune"
✶✶ Panji 盆桔 -- Mandarin orange (桔) are very popular. In Cantonese, the Chinese character 桔 (ji, meaning orange) and has the same pronunciation as 吉 (ji, meaning harvest and good luck). Besides this special meaning, the mandarin orange has a beautiful golden color, which adds to the lunar New Year festive atmosphere. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children. ✶✶
Candy Tray ------ arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray Of Togetherness" and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults places a red packet (ang pow) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.
ℑ Candied Melon - growth and good health
ℑ Red Melon Seed - dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth and sincerity
ℑ Lychee Nut - strong family relationships
ℑ Cumquat - prosperity (gold)
ℑ Coconut - togetherness
ℑ Peanuts - long life
ℑ Longan - many good sons
ℑ Lotus Seed - many children
Traditional Customs on New Year Eve
€ Putting up the Spring Couplets
(In ancient times, the Spring Couplets were originally made of peach wood by talisman to ward off evil spirits)
€ Bidding farewell to the year in exit
€ The reunion dinner
€ The New Year red packet (ang pow)
€ Observing the night
15 Days of Chinese New Year
Day 1 (初 一) ~~~ the gods of heaven and earth are welcomed and meat is avoided to promote longevity and happiness
Day 2 (初 二) ~~~ prayers are sent to the gods and ancestors. Son-in-laws pay respect to their wife's parents.
Day 3 (初 三) ~~~ dogs receive extra kindness and are well fed. Today is the birthday of the dogs.
Day 4 (初 四)n ~~~ the deities shall return to earth on this day. After the noon hour, the Deity Greeting ceremony begins.
Day 5 (初 五) ~~~ named 'Po Woo' - this day is spent at home to welcome the God of Wealth. It is bad luck to visit anyone on this day.
Day 6 (初 六) ~~~ free to visit friends and relatives or to the temple to pray. Some would start business on this day
Day 7 (初 七) ~~~ the birthday of all humans celebrated with a drink made by farmers from 7 types of vegetables. Raw fish is eaten to promote success and noodles for longevity
Day 8 (初 八) ~~~ prayers are sent at midnight by the Fujian people to Tian Gong (Heaven Gods) to ask for a peaceful year
Day 9 (初 九) ~~~ offering are made to the Jade Emperor
Day 10 - Day 12 (初 十, 十 一, 十 二) ~~~ invitation are sent to friends and relatives to join for dinner
Day 13 (十 三) ~~~ simple food are eaten so as to detoxify after all the rich food consumed for the past 12 days
Day 14 (十 四) ~~~ preparation for "Chap Goh Mei" (Lantern Festival) celebration
Day 15 (十 五) ~~~ Lantern Festival also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day. This day is a good day to get together. Some says that by sending a lucky flower to your loved one will help secure your relationship forever. In Malaysia, the most popular practice is throwing mandarin oranges into the river with the hope of getting a good husband.