Chinese New Year- Year of the Snake!
Hi everyone! I don't know if you'll be in China in time for Chinese New Year, but if you're not, maybe you can bring a little bit of China home to you with a quick primer on the festivities (this is a longer-text post, look for more picture ones tomorrow!):
Chinese New Year is traditionally known as the Spring Festival, which coincides with the farming calendar of the Chinese Almanac, Chinese New Year marks a fifteen-day celebration beginning on the first lunar new moon of the year and ending on the full moon. It is considered the most significant of holidays, integrating the themes of family, friends, home, and food.
the kitchen god
About a week prior to the lunar New Year, on the twenty-third or twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month, the Kitchen God, the most important domestic deity, is transported to the Jade Emperor, the ruler of the heavens, to report on the family's behavior from the previous year. The Kitchen God is represented by a paper image and is hung throughout the year near the family's stove. Long considered the soul of a Chinese family, the stove is where all is seen and heard. To encourage a good report, families smear the Kitchen God's mouth with honey or molasses, to sweeten his toungue. They remove his image from the stove and then burn it to send his spirit to the heavens. Some families offer spirit money during the deity's burning and even dip him in liquor to produce a bright flambe. When New Year's Eve arrives, a new Kitchen God is posted to replace the old one for another year of observation.
Before New Year's Day, old debts and past quarrels should be resolved for a new start. The Chinese prefer not to carry forth the burdens of the past. In olden days, debt collectors carried lanterns on New Year's Day to suggest it was still New Year's Eve, thus extending extra time to settle up.
Serious spring-cleaning activities are conducted in preparation for a brand-spanking new year. Every corner is swept. The kitchen is scrubbed. Linens are laundered. Shutters and windows are washed. A clean house represents a fresh start and symbolizes the cleaning out of old misfortune. Cleaning must be completed by New Year's Eve and not on New Year's Day to avoid the risk of sweeping away any New Year's luck.
It's also a time to clean out the weevils of your mind. Some all it an attitude adjustment. During the New Year season, optimism rules. In the old days, Chinatown's very young and old alike lifted spirits by offloading their lazieness in time for the New Year with the playful Cantonese rhyme: "Maai-lan, maai-lan! Maai-doh-nien-saam-shap-maan!" ("Selling laziness, selling laziness! Laziness for sale until New Year's Eve!") No wonder the Chinese can be considered industrious.
New Year "lucky papers" are simple declarations of good wishes. The Chinese prefer wishes over resolutions because if wishes aren't granted, the gods can be blamed... As the New Year approaches, the prophetic wishes are hung inside and outside the home. Typical wishes are written in black or gold Chinese calligraphy with auspicious words such as "hapiness", "wealth", "prosperity", "longevity" and "fortune/blessings".
Another form of "lucky paper" wall hangins are spring couplets. They're typically a pair of long vertical red paper strips written on in black or gold Chinese calligraphy. Each strip is written in complementary verse and expresses good wishes and well-being for the family or business. The strips are hung outside on either side of a home's front door, in a prominent place inside the house, at a business's main entrance or even on public gateways.
The practice of hanging the fu good luck character originates from an old tale of the Ming dynasty. While the emperor was traveling through his territory one day, he noticed a poster insulting to his empress hanging on many doors. Highly agitated, he counteracted it by distributing fu papers to the doors of all the homes that didn't possess the negative poster. By dawn, all the homes that didn't display the fu symbol had been destroyed.
In the northern tradition, fu is often seen hung upside down to take on the connotation that luck has arrived, because the words for "upside down" and "to arrive" sound similar in the Mandarin language.
Red is a lucky and auspicious color for the Chinese. During the New Year, it is omnipresent as it adorns nearly everything. It is considered a sign of good luck because of its symbolic association with fire, the sun, brightness, life energy (the yang of yin and yang), and the lifeblood that demons fear most.
Firecrackers are believed to promote a change in energy, deliver new beginnings, and provide protection from harm. Because the bangs scare mortals and animals alike, it was believed that frighting away deomons like Nian, the evil spirit, would make way for a year of good health, prosperity, and happiness.
Chinese people will wear new clothes to welcome the birth of the New year, often with a tinge of red. Traditionally, this was the only time of year the Chinese indulged in such luxuries.
Flowers, food, candles, and incense are offered to a family's ancestors at the home's altar. It's an act of resepct to honor and unite the family with those of the previous generations who've passed on. Letting the family elders eat first is considered a Chinese duty, and this applies to the dead as well as the living. Before sitting down to dinner, traditional families set a serving of the New Year's meal, including wine and tea, at the altar. It's a way of giving thanks, as the Chinese believe the family's good fortune is directly related to the well-being of its forebears. Once the dead anceastors have "eaten" their fill, the family isn't shy about consuming their leftovers, as being Chinese also means being practical.
chinese new year's eve
Chinese New Year's Eve is a night of reunion to instill harmony. A family dinner brings hope for a New Year filled with all things good. Children are allowed to stay up well past normal bedtime with the elders. Their enthusiasm for staying awake, known as the longevity vigil, is an auspicious sign of the elders' life spans. Red candles illuminate the house so that bad luck can't wander into the corners during the long night. FInally, at midnight, the new lunar year is welcomed with hearty conviviality and boisterous red fireworks. Lucky money is distributed to the youngsters, and the spring that brings forth renewal has arrived.
恭喜发财 Gong xi fa cai --> Wishing you happiness and prosperity
新年快乐 Xin nian kuai le --> Happy New Year
Known as hong bao 红包, red evelopes are given to young or unmarried children by their elders. Money in even amounts is considered lucky, save the number four, which sounds similar to the word for death. Giving and receiving lucky money signifies good luck for all. Those who give in turn receive. A Chinese family's luck is passed along and entrusted to their children.
lanterns by the moon
When the first full moon of the year rises on the fifteeth day of Chinese New Year, lanterns are hung to symbolize the light and warmth of spring. Extra lanterns are also an invitation for newborn children. The gods are out in full force, and the festivities are set to honor the Sun God.
Lanterns are used as signposts for the ancestral spirts to guide them home for the lunar celebration. After the fifteenth day, the light leads them back to the otherworld.
Don't shampoo your hair on New Year's Day, or the year's good luck will be washed away.
Don't sweep the floors on the first day, or good fortune will be swept away.
Don't use sharp edges, knives, or scissors on New Year's Day, or prosperity will be cut away.
Hold your tongue against cursing and gossiping to bring a year filled with peace.
Breaking things will bring seven years of bad luck. A quick remedy to this predicament is to say in Mandarin, "Sui sui ping an", which counteracts with peace for every year because "broken" also sounds like "peace".
Wear jade jewelry to manifest good luck.
Be Chinese fashion-forward by mixing red with pink.
Dressing inall black or white is a no-go.
astrological animal years
Each Chinese New Year welcomes a year represented by an animal that is associated with the lunar calendar's twelve astrological animals. According to legend, when the Earth God was establishing all things on the planet, he held a race of animals to determine the Chinese calendar system. Only the first twelve animals to cross the finish line would be represented. The cat and rat were concerned about their size and strength in comparision to the other animals, so they partnered with the nearly blind ox, who needed guiding during the race. The ox struck a deal with the rat and cat to ride on his back and act as navigators. From the race's start the ox easily held the lead. All appeared in order until the cunning rat pushed the cat off the ox's back while crossing a river. Then, just as the ox approached the finish line, the rat jumped off the ox's back and into the lead. The rat was declared the first animal to cross the finish line, followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. The cat was the thirteenth animal to finish and did not secure a place in the Chinese calendar. Since that time, cats and rats have been sworn enemies.
check your sign
- 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
- Positive characteristics: Imaginative, charming, generous, cunning, opportunistic
- Negative Characteristics: Short-tempered, critical, nervous, selfish
- 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
- Positive characteristics: Leader, conservative, methodical, dependable, honest, patient
- Negative characteristics: Chauvinistic, self-centered, stubborn, humorless
- 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
- Positive characteristics: Sensitive, rebellious, adventurous, energetic, passionate
- Negative characteristics: Quick-tempered, restless, suspicious, petty, impulsive
- 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
- Positive characteristics: Pleasant, affectionate, gentle, artistic, sophisticated, cautious
- Negative characteristics: Indifferent, tempermental, secretive, disloyal
- 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
- Positive characteristics: Vital, ambitious, daring, gifted, confident, forceful
- Negative characteristics: Arrogant, abrasive, angry, demanding, unwilling to compromise
- 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
- Positive characteristics: Wise, charming, romatic, intuitive, powerful
- Negative characteristics: Manipulative, ruthless, vidictive, possesive, demanding
- 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
- Positive characteristics:Hardworking, independent, intelligent, friendly, athletic
- Negative characteristics: Egotistical, rebellious, indecisive, volatile, impatient
- 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
- Positive characteristics:Elegant, artistic, calm, generous, compassionate
- Negative characteristics: Nervous, moody, pessimistic, shy, insecure
- 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
- Positive characteristics: Intelligent, nimble, polite, ambitous, versatile, witty
- Negative characteristics: Vain, deceitful, selfish, jealous
- 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
- Positive characteristics: Shrewd, articulate, honest, hardworking, meticulous
- Negative characteristics: Grandiose, tempermental, relentless, combative
- 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
- Positive characteristics: Trustworthy, faithful, fair, protective, intelligent, brave
- Negative characteristics: Stubborn, outspoken, critical, reserved
- 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
- Positive characteristics: Sincere, loyal, honest, resilient, courageous, generous
- Negative characteristics: Materialistic, domineering, immovable
Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture-Rosemary Gong