- January 31, 2014
- Posted by: Dr. Elise Cohen Ho
- Category: Community & Friendship
Happy Chinese New Year or Happy Lunar New Year or 恭喜發財 or Kung Hei Fat Choy. Say it any way that you wish as the sentiment is the same. I wish you all a beautiful, prosperous, and passion filled new year.
This is a very important traditional Chinese holiday that is celebrated around the world, and in my home.
I love this holiday for all the joy it brings and for all that it represents; and it does represent plenty.
Chinese New Year, also known in more recent times as Spring Festival, is a 15 day celebration. We honor dieties, ancestors, and scare off a terrible mythical monster during this time.
During this time Chinese families clean their house thoroughly so as to sweep away bad fortune and welcome good luck. We decorate our home with red paper, signs, and other symbols of good fortune and long happiness. We make offerings, eat traditional foods, and visit festivals where firecrackers are the norm.
As the married elders, we give red envelopes to the younger generation. The red envelopes are decorated with gold letters as these are colors of good luck. We present by using both hands. Lucky Money should be received in kind. The husband and wife each present an envelope, as opposed to American gift giving that would typically be one envelope from a family.
Traditional Chinese New Year envelopes are filled with crisp paper money. They should never be opened by the recipient in front of the giver. That would not be courteous behavior.
The amount of money varies but usually ends with an even number ($10, $20, $50 or more) as odd numbered money gifts are usually associated with funerals. The number four is to be avoided as it sounds too similar to the words of death. The money is crisp because to offer dirty, crumpled bills would be a sign of bad taste.
The foods of the Chinese New Year each represent something that is meant to promote luck.
A whole chicken symbolizes being together as a family. Clams and spring rolls represent wealth and noodles represent a long life. We commonly serve lettuce wraps as the word for lettuce in the Cantonese dialect of the Chinese language sounds similar to rising fortune. The word for tangerine sounds like luck, orange like wealth, and a pomelo (very large relative of the grapefruit) signifies abundance.
We serve a whole fish, with head and tail intact, to symbolize a good end and a good beginning to the Chinese New Year. Round cakes signify the coming together of family, layered foods depict abundance, and sweet foods portray a rich and sweet life.
The festivals and parades that accompany this 15 day celebration will end with the Lantern festival which will include fireworks, lion dances, and drums galore.
Ancient mythology tell a tale of an evil beast named Nian who people feared greatly. Nian had the head of a lion and the body of a bull. Nian would raid the human settlements each winter and take all that he could. However, Nian is not fearless. As a matter of fact, he fears three things.
The color red, fire, and loud noise all scare Nian. In an attempt to scare Nian off, villagers hung red papers and cloth wherever they could. Next they set fires in front of their homes. Finally, they stayed up through the night banging on drums. Above all, their hope was to scare off Nian.
Each Lunar New Year references a certain zodiac symbol represented by 12 animals. These animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. This cycle of animals interact with the five elements. The five elements are wood, fire, metal, water, and earth. 2014 is the year of the wooden horse. This phenomenon happens only once every 60 years.
In the Chinese tradition, the horse is the strongest fire animal.
People born in this zodiac include Oprah Winfrey, John Travolta, and my husband.
People who work in fire element industries are promised a year of success. Such industries are restaurants, oil, gas and transportation.
The zodiac also predicts a year of natural disasters and market fluctuations.
The year of the horse is a year for all to act swiftly. However, a swift act should only be executed with certainty of choice.
There are also specific predictions for the experience of each animal during the wood horse year. For instance, I am a rooster. I will have a year full of challenges. I look forward to this. A year full of challenges does not have to mean something negative. Ultimately, a year full of challenges can mean that I will work through many issues. I intend to prove that this means that I will have a year of tremendous growth.
Visit this link and check out your zodiac sign. Be sure to let me know how your year is progressing.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!