Chinese New Year

>> Sunday, January 29, 2012

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Happy Chinese New Year! Well, actually it began on January 23rd. It’s also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival; festivities go on for 15 days. Whew! That’s a lot of celebrating! It also marks the end of the winter season.

The origins of the Chinese New Year are unknown but it’s been going on for centuries. In the month leading up to the New Year and its celebrations, preparations begin with fervor. Every house is cleaned from top to bottom to clean/sweep away bad fortune (gotta make way for good luck!), maybe even a fresh coat of paint, plus new clothes and presents are bought, decorations with themes of wealth, happiness, and longevity are placed in windows and on doors, and of course, there’s lots of food.

Special attention goes into every detail and the huge feast on the Chinese New Year’s Eve with family is no exception. Dinner usually consists of seafood and meat of varying kinds, dumplings and sweet treats. And depending on the dish/food, they signify good wishes, happiness, good luck, longevity, and prosperity.

Even wearing (or not wearing) certain colors have meaning. Red, my favorite color, fends off evil spirits (do); black and white is associated with mourning (don’t).

After the big feast, families stay up late playing games or watching special programs on TV, followed by fireworks to ring in the New Year. Many people express the popular greeting Gong Xi Fa Chai, which means, “congratulations and make a fortune.”

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Then it’s time for Red Packet, or “Hong Bao.” This custom is for parents to give their children (or unmarried adults) money in red packets or envelopes (children can receive red envelopes from others as well). The families then go on to exchange greetings with neighbors, coworkers, friends and other relatives. It’s also the time for letting go of old grudges and wishing everyone well (that’s a great custom, we should all do that).

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At the end of the Spring Festival, comes the Festival of Lanterns. You can just imagine how amazing and exciting this celebration must be with all the lanterns lit (seriously click here and you'll see how incredible some of them can be)! Many of the lanterns reflect historical themes or legends, express traditional values, depict heroic figures, and represent the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac.

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Sheng Xiao, the Chinese Zodiac, is based on a 12 year cycle with each year represented by an animal. We’ve got the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

This year, as you know, is the Year of the Dragon (Jan 23, 2012 – Feb 9, 2013), the most powerful of signs and the luckiest! It’s the only animal in the zodiac that is not real…but, it’s considered very special. The dragon is not meant to be scary or evil but rather it represents power, superiority, success, leadership, honor, and wisdom.
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They say those born under the dragon are doers, not shy, attention-getters, and stand out. The dragon breathes fire (hotheads maybe?) and has a long tongue, which could symbolize a “sharp tongue” a dragon person has. But, they also are quite compassionate. I say just stay on their good side and you’ll be fine (*wink*).

I am not a dragon (I'm a rooster) but according the compatibility chart, we'd make a "wonderful pair."

There is so much more in way of traditions and customs associated with the Chinese New Year that this history lesson I’ve given is just a snapshot. If you’re interested in learning more about any of this, check out some of these sources:

http://www.chinese.new-year.co.uk/history.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year
http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/ChineseNewYear/ChineseNewYear.htm
http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_zodiac
http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/dragon.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_(zodiac)
http://www.about-sichuan-china.com/year-of-the-dragon.html

I found learning about the Chinese New Year to be so fascinating and rich in culture. There's so much involved and I love it!


P.S. Hopefully, you read some of this as it might be useful information in the very near future (*wink wink, hint hint*).

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