Lunar New Year Celebrations
That run throughout the holiday celebrations. In the second half of this article, we will hear from various staff members how those themes and traditions played out in their childhood celebrations and memories.
Old and New
While most cultures around the world celebrate New Year's as a time of renewal, for the Asian culture, the New Year means that and much more. It is a time to gather with family, honor ancestors and celebrate with a big banquet that symbolizes prosperity in the New Year. An Asian proverb states that all creations are reborn on New Year’s Day. The Lunar New Year represents a lot of celebrations of change…… out with the old and in with the new! Shooting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve is a way of sending out the old year and welcoming the New Year. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, every door in the house, even windows are supposed to be open to allow the old year to go out and welcome the New Year in.
Because of the perceived significance of events which occur during New Year Day, there are many traditions that focus on what to do which will set the tone of ‘good fortune” for the entire year. Everyone is to avoid bad or unlucky words and references to the past year, as everyone is to focus on the New Year and a new beginning. The first person one meets in the New Year and the first words which are hard are considered significant for the entire year to come.
Families typically decorate their homes with symbols of good fortune. These are some suggestions if you’d like to follow:
- Colors: Bright red (signifies happiness); gold/orange: (wealth)
- Fruits: Oranges (good health & long life); Tangerines with leaves intact (long lasting relationships)
- Candy tray: Circular container of candy (for sweet and well-rounded togetherness)
- Flowers: If flowers bloom on New Year’s Day, it signifies a prosperous year.
- Red banners /couplets: wishes and symbols of good fortune in gold letters
Even the seasons resonate with the theme of new beginnings, as in the Far East, this time of year corresponds with the end of winter and the beginning of springtime, as farmers plant for the new harvest. As a result, this holiday is often also called “Spring Festival.” However, the weather can sometimes be still cold. In ancient China, in order to eat the warm food, Chinese had to sit around the cooking stove for New Year Eve dinner. That's why this dinner is also called Wei-Lu 围炉, which means "surrounding the stove".
Food is important part of the festivities; typically long noodles are a part of meals as they represent longevity and a long life. Every dish has an auspicious meaning behind it. It's connected to longevity, reunion, perfection, good luck, health, diligence, satisfaction or promotion based on the homophone of the dish's name. Fish and chicken represent prosperity and large feasts are prepared to symbolize great prosperity for the coming year. For these meals it is particularly important to present the whole chicken or fish. The head, tail and feet must be presented together to signify completeness.
After the meal is an exciting time for children. They are waiting for New Year's Hong Bao 红包, which is a Red Envelope containing brand-new money. Adult or parents will hand out the Red Envelopes to children, unmarried immediate family and their parents. Children will put all Red Envelopes under the pillow when sleeping. It is said that children can sleep well without bad dream and become richer next year
There are a number of “do’s” and “don’ts” for the New Year Day, including don’t wash your hair; don’t sweep your house or you’ll sweep away good fortune; don’t say anything bad or negative on New Years Day. Your kids would be pleased to know that in China, there is a saying “If you cry on New Year’s Day, you will cry all through the year.” As a result, many mischievous children are given an extra bit of grace that day!
While many Asians in North America today may not follow a lot of “dos and don’t customs”, several traditions are still important and provides the family with a strong identity.