Nihao! (Hello in Chinese) The Chinese New Year –globally known as the Lunar New Year — is happening in East Asia. It’s a great idea to embrace a global mindset where people acknowledge and celebrate each other’s customs. So let’s start with China.
The Chinese have their own lunisolar calendar to determine the exact date of the Lunar New Year. Each year in the Lunar New Year or Chinese zodiac corresponds with twelve animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. This year is the “Year of the Rat,” which began on Saturday, January 25 and lasting for 15 days. Since the lunisolar has 12 cycles, the zodiac goes through a full revolution every 12 years.
During the celebration, fireworks and festivities are a major part of the spectacle. It is also traditional for people to clean their homes for every family member, to sweep away ill-fortune and to make way for good luck. After the 15 days, another festival called the “Lantern Festival” takes place. Lanterns are put up for decorations and fly up or even let loose in the river.
The Chinese culture strongly emphasizes the importance of family and values. It is not uncommon for Grandparents to live with their children, even after marriage. Festivals are an essential aspect in Chinese culture because they serve to bring families together in celebrating tradition.
The Chinese New Year was originally was meant for prayer to the harvest gods. A red envelope in the Chinese New Year Festival symbolizes wishing good luck. The color red is everywhere during the Festival. In addition, anything that deals with garbage is forbidden. Doing laundry is not allowed during the 15 days. If you were going to gift a pear or a mirror, it is considered taboo. In China, ‘pears’ are the same as ‘parting’ and mirrors since it is believed that it attracts evil ghosts and breaks easily, which is a bad omen. There’s also a service that’s recently been going in China. If you’re single during Chinese New Year, you can “rent” a boyfriend/girlfriend.
During the first day of Chinese New Year, Spring rolls are eaten. During the Jin Dynasty (approximately 264-400), when the Chinese New Year (back then it was known as – Spring Festival) was held, emperors would award officials with Spring rolls.
There’s also well-known dish – Dumplings are also served to send away the old and welcome the new. In certain regions of China, the daughter-in-law is required to make a dumpling in order to be part of the family.
For desert, Nian gao or rice cakes, is served during Chinese New Year. It was used to be part of an offering to the Gods and the ancestors. Nian gao was popular during the Wei and Jin Dynasty.
The Lunar New Year is a good reminder that if you have a friend or if you live in an area that’s different than yours, then perhaps it is time for some cultural exploration. It’s time that we open our doors to new things and new situations. Whether it be a movie about a foreign country or reading interesting facts about an unfamiliar place, hopefully it results in planning a trip to go visit that country. You won’t come back the same, but that might just be a great thing.