Gung Hay Fat Choy
Celebrating Chinese New Year with thirteen facts
1 – According to legend, in ancient China, the Nián (年) was a man-eating beast from the mountains (in other versions from under the sea), which came out every 12 months to prey on humans. The people later believed that the Nian was sensitive to loud noises and the color red, so they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of the color red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations.
2 – On the days before the New Year celebration, Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning, known as ‘spring cleaning’. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and window-panes a new coat of red paint. Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases
3 – A reunion dinner is held on New Year’s Eve where members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration.
4 – Traditionally, red envelopes or red packets are passed out during the Chinese New Year’s celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is common for adults to give red packets to children.
5 – Red clothing is commonly worn throughout the Chinese New Year, as red will scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. Also, people typically wear new clothes from head to toe to symbolize starting anew in the new year.
6 – Popular floral decorations for the New Year are plum blossom which symbolizes luck and chrysanthemum which symbolizes longevity
7 – Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to ‘scare away’ ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
8 – A hair-cut is considered bad luck. The word “hair” is a homophone for the word for “prosperity”. Thus “cutting hair” could be perceived as “cutting away your prosperity” in Cantonese.
9 – The Jade Emperor (Pinyin: Yù Huáng or Yù Dì), known informally by children and commoners as Grandpa Heaven (Tiān Gōng) and known formally as the Pure August Jade Emperor or August Personage of Jade (Yu Huang Shangdi or Yu Huang Dadi), is the ruler of Heaven according to Chinese mythology and among the most important gods of the Chinese Daoist pantheon. There are several stories as to how the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac were chosen. In one, the Jade Emperor, although having ruled Heaven and Earth justly and wisely for many years, had never had the time to actually visit the Earth personally. He grew curious as to what the creatures of the earth looked like. To this end, he charged his chief advisor with selecting the twelve most interesting animals and bringing them to Heaven to satisfy his curiosity.
10 – Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness
11 – A dish of candy called a “Tray of Togetherness” is displayed and shared with guests. Each type of candy represents something positive for the new year:
- candied melon – growth and good health
- red melon seed – dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth and sincerity
- lychee nut – strong family relationships
- kumquat – prosperity (gold)
- coconut – togetherness
- peanuts – long life
- longnan – many good sons
- lotus seed – many children
12 – The Lantern Festival also known as the Shang Yuan Festival, is a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar year. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night carrying bright lanterns. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, for only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones; in modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in shapes of animals. Traditionally, the date once served as a day for love and matchmaking. It was one of the few nights in ancient times without a strict curfew. Young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope.
13 – Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia.Some of the parade highlights include elaborately decorated floats, school marching bands, martial arts group, stilt walkers, lion dancers, Chinese acrobatics, the newly crowned Miss Chinatown USA and the Golden Dragon. The Golden Dragon is over 201 feet long and is always featured at the end of the parade as the grand finale and will be accompanied by over 600,000 firecrackers! The Golden Dragon was made in Foshan, a small town in China. The Foshan dragonmasters formerly made all the costumes for the Cantonese opera, and the Golden Dragon bears many operatic touches, such as the rainbow colored pompoms on its 6 foot-long head. It is festooned from nose to tail with colored lights, decorated with silver rivets on both scaly sides and trimmed in white rabbit fur. The dragon, made on a skeleton of bamboo and rattan, is in 29 segments. It takes a team of 100 men and women to carry the Golden Dragon. This is also considered an honor to be chosen for the grand finale.
* Binkies out to wiki & other online sites for the info!