Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival is the most important traditional Chinese holiday and it ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. The next Chinese New Year is to be on February 3rd and it is only a time to get together with family to celebrate but to also remember family who have died.

The days before the New Year families buy presents, decorations, food, new clothes and have their entire houses clean. The intent of the cleaning is to clean away the bad luck and on the New Year Day it is bad luck to clean the house as it is seen as cleaning the good luck away.

On Chinese New Year there is celebration using firecrackers, lanterns, torches and bonfires to chase away the evil spirits believed to be scared off by the light and noise, with dragon and lion dances taking place throughout the first few days of the Chinese New Year.

Red envelops are a common gift around this time of year. The red of the envelop symbolizes good luck and money, with money usually an amount of a lucky number such as one containing multiple eights (as in Chinese it sound similar to “prosperity”.

Certain foods are eaten more often during the Chinese New Year, such as Year Cake and Prosperity Cake, dumplings, a salad of raw fish (known as you sheng), mandarins as they are a symbol of wealth and good fortune,  red Jujubes (or ‘Chinese Dates’) which symbolize prosperity, steamed fish as they symbolize long life and good fortune, uncut noodles during to their symbolism of longevity and baked foods with seeds to symbolize fertility. Quite a few things but that is what is eaten during Chinese New Year.

The beginning of Chinese New Year is said to have started with a fight against a beast known as the Nien.
The story goes that the Nien would come to a village on the first day of the New Year where it would eat livestock, crops and villagers (especially children), and because of this villagers would place food in front of their doors at the beginning of each year. Then one time people saw the Nien being scared away by a child wearing red and people knew it was the red that scared the beast away, so people began hanging red lanterns at the start of every New Year. People also used firecrackers to scare away the Nien. The Nien never did go back to the village, and was eventually captured by a Taoist monk by the name of Hongjun Laozu.

With fifteen days or the Chinese New Year there are much to celebrate.
The first day is of the welcoming of deities of both Heaven and earth with meat and the killing of animal often being abstained from this day. Lion and dragon dances are common this day along with fireworks. The first day is also known as the birthday of Budai, the Laughing Buddha.

The second day praying to one’s ancestors and all of the gods are occur this day. It is also the birthday of all dogs this day, so dogs are treated with extra kindness with being given an extra nice meal.

The third day is known as ‘chi kou’ which means ‘red mouth’. Nothing much happens this day as it thought to not be a good day to socialise. Nothing much happens on the fourth day, either.

The fifth day it is known as the birthday of the Chinese god of wealth, Tsai Shen Yeh, and it common to shoot off firecrackers to get the attention of the god of war, Guan Yu, for his favour and good fortune.

On the sixth day is another day of not much happenings but on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year it is known as the common mans birthday and raw fish salad is tossed.

The eighth day is when the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor is celebrated, with the ninth day the birthday of the Jade Emperor is celebrated. Prayers to the Jade Emperor are said and offerings are given, usually of incense, tea, fruit and vegetarian food. The tenth day is also another day when the Jade Emperor is celebrated.

Sadly, nothing can be said by me for the eleventh and twelfth days… But on the thirteenth day people will tend to only eat vegetarian food and this day is dedicated to Guan Yu, the god of war. It is this day where most organization and business in China will pray to Guan Yu.

Fourteenth day nothing much again but on the fifteenth day the Lantern Festival is celebrated and candles are lit outside houses to help guide spirits home.

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