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Chinese New Year is Saturday January 28th

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Caitlin Samson

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This Saturday, January 28 marks the Lunar New Year. Each year, in the Chinese Calendar, a zodiac animal is represented. There are 12 zodiac signs: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the ram, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the pig. This year is the year of the rooster, the tenth zodiac in the 12-year cycle.  

Chinese New Year is one of the most major holidays celebrated in the Chinese culture. Many traditions take place leading up to and during the celebration.

  • Cleaning the House: Many families clean their house before the new year in order to make sure the new year comes with purity and goodness.
  • Cutting the Hair: Another tradition is to cut your hair before the new year. This way, all bad luck from the previous year will stay in the past and the new will bring good fortune.
  • Buying New Clothes: This is yet another tradition based around the idea of leaving what was bad in the past and preparing for the good that will come.
  • Decorating the House: Houses are often decorated with red and gold banners and lanterns. Red is a lucky color and is symbolic of happiness, while gold is symbolic of prosperity. Lanterns are placed around the house and are either made of wood and silk, or out of the red envelopes used to give money on New Year’s Day. In addition, many plants are bought and used to decorate such as pussy willow or cherry blossoms.
  • New Year’s Eve Dinner: On New Year’s Eve, families gather, often eating fish and/or dumplings which symbolize prosperity.

Traditions on New Year’s Day

  • Red Envelopes: On New Year’s day, family members give each other red envelopes containing money. The red envelopes symbolize good luck and prosperity. It is recommended that money given is new and crisp rather than old and wrinkled. The amount of money cannot contain/include  the digit “4” because in Chinese it is pronounced similarly to the character meaning “death”. Envelopes are given to and from most members of the family.
  • Long noodles: These are symbolic of longevity. These can be served stir-fried or boiled.
  • Citrus Fruits: Rounded citrus fruits are eaten during the Chinese New Year period such as tangerines, oranges and pomelos. These represent success, luck and continuous prosperity.
  • New Year’s Rice Cake (年糕 Niángāo): These cakes are made of rice flour, brown sugar, and oil. However some contain ingredients like dates, chestnuts, and lotus leaves. These symbolize that you will become higher up in success, or achieve new heights in the new year, since the word “gāo” sounds similar to the Chinese word for “height”.
  • Jai: This is a vegetarian dish meant to cleanse one’s soul and inside. It usually consists of snow peas, tofu, baby corn, clear noodles, black mushrooms, and sea moss all in a broth. However, like most Chinese new year dishes, the dish can vary.
  • Chinese Dumplings: These are often made to look like Chinese silver ingots which represent a boat shape, symbolizing wealth. Dumplings are usually filled with a form of meat such as pork, chicken or shrimp, and minced vegetables.
  • Whole Fish: the Chinese word for fish resembles the pronunciation of the word for abundance/surplus. This implies that one will have a profitable new year. The fish is so important in the meal that there are even rules regarding how it should be placed, and when to eat it.
        • The head of the fish must be pointed to the eldest at the table to show respect
        • The fish can only be eaten by others, after the eldest eats the fish.
  • Tray of Togetherness: This is a 6-10 section tray containing sweets. Trays vary but usually contain candied coconut, candied lotus root, candied lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, candied kumquat, and candy. This represents family togetherness and harmony.
  • The Lion Dance: This is a traditional Chinese Dance performed in a lion costume accompanied by music. The lion is played by two dancers. The one in the front controls the head and has the most interaction with the audience. Audience often puts red envelopes in the lion’s mouth for the dancers. The dance originated from few sightings of lions in China due to its isolated geography. In order to explain what they had seen, people would try to reenact the behavior of the lion. This turned into Chinese folk culture and has become one of the main events that occurs during the New Year celebration. Lion dancers tend to perform tricks for the audience such as leaping, going on “two paws” (meaning the dancer in the front stands on the shoulders of the dancer in the back), and running around engaging with the audience. It is a festive, comical show that many people look forward to attending.
  • Fireworks and Firecrackers: Fireworks and firecrackers are lit to scare away any bad spirits. Both are commonly lit during or right after lion dances.

The Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 15 days. The majority of these days are spent visiting family. However, the last day of the celebration is the Lantern Festival.  It marks the first full moon night in the new year. On this evening, lanterns of all shapes, sizes, and colors are lit and decorated along streets, in houses and malls. These represent the illumination of the future. One tradition is the lantern riddles. Vendors often tape riddles to the ends of the the lanterns they sell and encourage people to solve them during the festival.

The Chinese New Year celebration is a festive holiday. It is rich with culture, tradition and folklore. Millburn wishes those who celebrate it a prosperous, healthy new year!

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