Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! Being a Chinese-American, today was a very special day for my family back home, and many other countries that celebrate this holiday. Growing up, there were many chores we had to do. It is necessary to clean the entire home prior to the New Year, as a sort of house “cleanse,” to clear away any bad luck that may be in the home and to start anew for the New Year. This was the only tedious task that I despised about the New Year, but I always knew that festivities, good food, and money were to come.

The Chinese New Year Eve dinner is a very important time when the entire family comes together and eats Chinese foods with symbolical meaning. For example, noodles represent a long life to come, while tangerines represent a sweet life to come. Most Chinatowns in the U.S. throw festivals complete with great Chinese food like “jian dui” (煎堆), games, firecrackers and firework shows, and best of all—lion dances. The purpose behind the loud drums, cymbals, and “lions” is to scare away the evil spirits for the New Year. Feeding the “lions” with dollar bills is common to show support for the Lion Dance Associations, and to also sentimentally receive good luck in return. There is an ordinary confusion between the difference of “lion dances” and “dragon dances.” Lion dances are the ones with two people in the costumes: one carrying the head of the lion, and the other assuming the back of the lion. Dragon dances, on the other hand, consist of numerous people holding sticks that are the foundation of the very long dragon.

An example of a lion dance parade.

An example of a dragon dance.

The tradition is to run through underneath the dragon (in between the people holding the sticks) for a long life. Of course these are all superstitions, but it is fun to participate in a tradition that is important to the culture. The best part of it all, children and young adults receive a “hong bao” (紅包) or “li shi” (利是) from their elders after wishing them a joyful and prosperous new year, “gong xi fa cai” (恭喜發財). Since I am not able to enjoy the holiday back home, today consisted of a lot of FaceTime calls wishing my elders a Happy New Year and other wishes for the new year. Happy Year of the Rooster!