Chinese New Year – Jan 26, 2009

Probably the most important celebration in the Chinese culture is Chinese New Year. Known also as the Spring Festival, it is celebrated for a total of fifteen days. This noisy, colorful and fun occasion marks the beginning of a brand new year for the Chinese. It is a time for loud well wishes, amiable chatter and fantastic food.

Chinese New Year is celebrated with great enthusiasm. However the Chinese do observe strict traditions and various taboos to ensure luck and prosperity in the home.

The color red plays an important role during Chinese New Year. Red signifies good fortune and luck. A popular custom is the giving of `Hong Baos’ or red packets. These are little red paper envelopes stuffed with money. Married adults and the elderly give these hong baos to children and unmarried young people as an act of well wishing and blessing.  If you are single, you may find red packets pressed gently into your hand after a friendly handshake. Don’t wave your hand and say no, for this is the way the giver is wishing you a happy New Year.

Homes are decorated with platters of mandarin oranges or tangerines, and circular candy trays. These trays, filled with dried fruit and candy, represent togetherness. Tangerines are symbols of good luck, and oranges, of wealth. These fruits are often presented as part of a gift to families and friends.  Other decorations in the home include poetic couplets on walls and doors, good luck wishes such as longevity or prosperity written on red paper. Flowers such as plum blossoms, pussy willow, azaleas and peonies bring the beauty and color of Spring into the home.

On the day of the Chinese New Year, lion dances are performed to usher in good luck and red fire crackers are lighted to scare away the evil spirits. It is a loud and joyous celebration, filled with fun. The dance signifies the end of the year and welcoming a new start, driving away evil spirits, bringing good luck and fortune to the people.

Be part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Look out for a Chinese New Year parade in a Chinatown near you, and join the Chinese in ushering good luck, happiness and wealth.