- The Spring Festival
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year has a great history. In other traditions,
by this time in the year, most resolutions - made on December
31 - have been subtly forgotten and placed in a cupboard
marked "maybe next year." However, all hope is not lost,
as there's a second chance to start afresh with the celebration
of Chinese New Year on February 5th.
The Chinese New Year is very similar to the Western one,
swathed in traditions and rituals.
The origin of the Chinese New Year is itself centuries
old - in fact, too old to actually be traced. It is popularly
recognised as the Spring Festival and celebrations last
Preparations tend to begin a month from the date of the
Chinese New Year (similar to a Western Christmas), when
people start buying presents, decoration materials, food
and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway days before
the New Year, when Chinese houses are cleaned from top to
bottom, to sweep away any traces of bad luck, and doors
and windowpanes are given a new coat of paint, usually red.
The doors and windows are then decorated with paper cuts
and couplets with themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity
printed on them.
The eve of the New Year is perhaps the most exciting part
of the event, as anticipation creeps in. Here, traditions
and rituals are very carefully observed in everything from
food to clothing. Dinner is usually a feast of seafood and
dumplings, signifying different good wishes. Delicacies
include prawns, for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters
(or ho xi), for all things good, raw fish salad or yu sheng
to bring good luck and prosperity, Fai-hai (Angel Hair),
an edible hair-like seaweed to bring prosperity, and dumplings
boiled in water (Jiaozi) signifying a long-lost good wish
for a family. It's usual to wear something red as this colour
is meant to ward off evil spirits - but black and white
are out, as these are associated with mourning. After dinner,
the family sit up for the night playing cards, board games
or watching TV programmes dedicated to the occasion. At
midnight, the sky is lit up by fireworks.
On the day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, meaning
Red Packet, takes place. This involves married couples giving
children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes. Then
the family begins to say greetings from door to door, first
to their relatives and then their neighbours. Like the Western
saying "let bygones be bygones," at Chinese New Year, grudges
are very easily cast aside.
The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns,
which is a celebration with singing, dancing and lantern
Although celebrations of the Chinese New Year vary, the
underlying message is one of peace and happiness for family
members and friends.
(to be continued)