Celebrating the (Chinese) New Year

春節

 

All around the world red shiny envelopes will be exchanged with loved ones and dragons will come to life by the roaring sounds on drums and energetic dances as people around the world - mostly of Chinese descendant - will welcome the Year of the Rooster.

 

Most commonly known as Spring Festival or Lunar Year, Chinese New Year is unlike the Western festivity, which takes place on the last day of the year. CNY is traditionally celebrated on the first day, which typically falls on the new moon between January 21st to February 20th, to the Lantern Festival, which is the 15th day of the first calendar month. Despite being celebrated for centuries and in many countries, CNY hasn’t lost its significance and has the ability to be passed on along with several myths and traditions.

 

 

According to legends, CNY started with a mythical beast called Nian, who during the New Year would go from village to village, eating people - especially children. One year, all the villagers decided to hide from the beast except for one old man, who decided  he was going to stay awake and get revenge on Nian by putting red papers up and setting off firecrackers. Once morning came, the villagers came back to their town and saw nothing was destroyed, leading them to believe that: A) The old man could’ve been a deity that came to save them and B) The Nian was afraid of the color red and loud noises. From then on, every time the New Year was about to come, the villagers would wear red clothes, hang red lanterns, and red spring rolls on windows and doors, along with using firecrackers to scare away the Nian, who never came back.

 

Chinese New year is a movable celebration. It’s a big, bold, red celebration that brings joy and hope to those who partake in it. Bright fireworks light up the sky from dusk till dawn, red lanterns and scrolls can be seen around the streets. Bells, gongs, and laughter is heard everywhere, and burned bamboo sticks and sweet treats fill the air.

 

Chinese New Year is a unique, beautiful holiday with great, family-centered customs. For starters, the preparation for CNY starts in December, with the Laba holiday - or Bodhi Day for Buddhists - a time spent honoring the gods and ancestors. It is important to prepare yourself to welcome the New Year and the days immediately prior to it are spent amongst family members, cleaning and preparing for the annual reunion dinner. In addition to family dinners, I love the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day after CNY.

 

Beyond the usual Lunar New Year traditions, however, is a holiday full of interesting quirks and customs, aimed at making sure the year ahead is lucky and prosperous. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to making sure your 2017 is full of good, thriving *~*ViBeS*~*

DO:

  • EAT

We all know Chinese food is freaking delicious, but during CNY try to focus on two things: dumplings and candy. Eating dumplings (餃子, jiaozi) around the holidays is extremely popular in Asian countries because not only are they scrumptious, little bags of heaven but the shape of a Chinese-style dumpling resembles the pieces of gold that were used as currency in ancient times. And sweet treats like candy are especially important during CNY, since they sweeten up prospects for the coming year.

WEAR RED

This is one is indispensable. During CNY, wearing red is not just a fashion statement, but rather a critical part of the holiday. It doesn’t matter if it’s your underwear, socks, pants, or a sweater, wearing a red garment helps keep bad luck at bay, since the colour is associated with luck and prosperity. And if your Chinese Zodiac sign happens to be the Rooster, I recommend you wearing red during this day, just to give you an extra umph during CNY. Also, don’t forget to decorate your home with a little colour too, with red couplets, paper-cuts, lanterns and spring rolls!

  • CLEAN

Wash, dust, sweep, mop, vacuum, scrub and steam every inch of your house to make sure everything is tidy before midnight. The reason behind this is to sweep away and get rid of ill-fortune and bad luck and make way for good luck.

  • SET OFF FIREWORKS

The more fireworks, the better. Go all out. Not only are fireworks pretty, but they’re also loud, as they light up the sky with intense roars, which help scare off evil spirits.

  • GIVE TO OTHERS

Hongbaos (紅包) or red envelopes are the best thing ever. Traditionally, they’re a given to kids, stuffed with ‘lucky money’ and positive wishes for the New Year and of course, you give your friends and family other types of gifts. Sending gifts and rice to close business associates and extended family members is also a common practice.

DON’TS:

  • CLEAN

Cleaning of any kind is strictly forbidden on New Year’s Day. And yes, some people take as far as to not even showering. You see, after doing all that intense cleaning and trying to get rid of all the bad luck from the previous year - I’m looking at you 2016 - you want to make sure that any of the good luck that has graced your household at the stroke of midnight stays. So, if you want to preserve all that good juju, don’t clean.

  • WASH/CUT YOUR HAIR

Leave you hair as it is on the first day. This relates with what we talked about above. By washing or cutting your hair, you’d be washing away the fortune away and dramatically reducing your fortune for the year ahead. So reach out for that dry shampoo, you might need it an extra day!

BUY BOOKS

I know, I know. Trust me, I know. If you’re an avid reader, I suggest you stock up on books and magazines before the New Year, because it’s considered bad luck during the entire 15-day Spring Festival. This is because the Chinese word for ‘book’ (書, shū) sounds exactly like the word ‘lose’, ergo, buying a book during the Spring Festival would basically be considered an invitation for bad luck. Also, stay away from gifting books, because it could be seen as you wishing bad luck upon them. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake before.

I don’t know about you guys, but on the 27th I’ll be cleaning my room from top to bottom and on the 28th I’ll be rocking some red clothes. And with that, it’s time to say goodbye to the hyperactive Monkey and welcome the charming, confident Rooster. 新年快樂!

 

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