Friday, February 12, 2010

Gung Hay Fat Choy

This year, Chinese New Year (Year of the Tiger) falls on Valentine's Day AND my Birthday (well, pretty close since my birthday is today, which is also Abraham Lincoln's birthday). There seems to be a whole lot of celebrating going on!

Here a little Chinese New Year 101.

Chinese New Year is a holiday that celebrates the beginning of a new year according to the lunar calendar. It is considered to be one of the most important holidays for Chinese families.

The holiday is celebrated with big family gatherings, gift giving, the eating of symbolic foods and display of festive decorations - all focused on bringing good luck for the new year and celebrating the coming of Spring.

Prior to the first day of the New Year it is customary for families to thoroughly clean their homes from top to bottom. Doing this is said to clear out any bad luck from the previous year and to ready the house to accept good luck for the coming year.

All cleaning must be finished before New Year's Day so there is no chance of accidentally throwing out the good fortune of the New Year. Before New Year's Day you want to buy new clothes or cut your hair in order to have a fresh start. Wearing black is not allowed due to its association with death, however, wearing red is encouraged as the color is associated with warding off bad spirits.

On the eve of the Chinese New Year it is customary to visit with relatives and partake in a large dinner where a number of specific foods are served.

Typically families do eight or nine dishes because they are lucky numbers. The Chinese word for eight is "bot" (in Cantonese), which rhymes with "fot," the word for prosperity. The word for nine means "long-lasting."

A lot of the foods are very symbolic. Some popular foods include: dumplings because they look like golden nuggets, oranges because they are perfectly round, symbolizing completeness and wholeness, green leafy vegetables to symbolize money, and long noodles served to symbolize long life.

It is traditional practice for adults to give children little red envelopes - "lie see" (in Cantonese) - filled with money in order to symbolize wealth and prosperity for the coming year. It is also common for elders to bestow red packets to unmarried members of the family. It is a sign of respect to bow three times in order to accept the "lie-see." Envelopes are not to be opened until the recipient has left the home of the giver.

BTW, do you know what Chinese Zodiac animal you are? Find out here.

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