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Chinese New Year Celebrations

Chinese New Year celebrations are used to scare away the mythical wild beast Nien (年, which also is the word for “year”). Legend has it that at the end of each year, Nien appears and pillages human towns and villages. Therefore, loud firecrackers and bright lights are meant to shoo the beast or evil spirits away, and the 15-day New Year festivities have taken roots as the most important of Chinese traditions. According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year usually falls in between the end of January and mid-February, and is celebrated in Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, as well as among the Chinese people in Thailand Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and around the world. Family and friends gather to feast and observe traditional rituals. Listed below are some important customs.

Red Couplets bearing auspicious characters or phrases, as well as red décor such as lanterns, Chinese knots, potted kumquats and golden orange trees adorn every street, storefront and home. The color red is ubiquitous, because it is

associated with wealth and good fortune in Chinese culture. House Cleaning before the Chinese New Year is also customary. Windows are scrubbed, floors are washed and furniture is dusted in preparation for the New Year, ridding the bad luck of the past year. However, dusting is avoided on New Year’s Day, lest that good fortune be swept away.

As the New Year approaches, various activities keep people busy and jolly. New Year’s Markets sell decorations, red envelopes, toys, clothes and trinkets. Families shop, decorate their houses, and wear new clothes on the Chinese New Year. Many people also pray at the Temple on the third day of the New Year.

Red envelopes, called “hong bao 红包 ” in Mandarin, are filled with small or hefty amounts of money and placed underneath pillows of children or unmarried/jobless young adults on the Chinese New Year’s Eve. Hong Bao money is to suppress the Nien (Ya Sui 压岁), while the red color denotes good luck/fortune and happiness/abundance in the Chinese Culture.

The Chinese New Year’s Eve meal “Tuan Yuan Fan 团圆饭,” is the most important dinner of the year. Typically, families gather at a designated relative’s house or a restaurant for dinner on the Chinese New Year’s Eve. During each day of the 15-day celebration, families rotate gatherings in homes of their relatives. Married daughters return to their maternal families on January 2nd of the Lunar Calendar (Hui Niang Jia 回娘家), and the festivities are day-long, with many red envelopes given or received. The traditional foods are:

  • Eight Treasures Rice (contains glutinous rice, walnuts, different colored dry fruit, raisins, sweet red bean paste, jujube dates, and almonds).

  • “Tang Yuan” -- black sesame or small glutinous rice ball soup; or a Won Ton soup.

  • Fish -- The tradition of eating fish during the New Year stems from the fact that the Chinese word for “surplus” or “profit” (余) sounds the same as the word for fish (鱼). Thus, it is believed that eating fish will bring wealth, and every year, there will be surplus wealth/fish (Nian Nian You Yu 年年有余/年年有鱼).

  • Dumplings are shaped like the old Chinese money Yuan Bao 元宝, and symbolize wealth.

  • Chicken, Duck, and Pork Dishes.

  • Mandarin Oranges symbolize good fortune.

  • “Nian Gao” or “Song Gao”, literally translates to “loose cake”- which is made of rice which has been coarsely ground and then formed into a small, sweet round cake.

As descendants of dragons, Chinese perform Lion or Dragon Dances on the streets with nonstop rhythms of drums and cymbals, firecrackers, and exchanges of “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (恭喜发财 Congratulations on your wealth and prosperity). On the fifth day of the New Year when many people have to return to work, Dancing Dragons/Lions perform in the front of businesses and office buildings to bring good fortune.

The 15th day of the New Year is known as The Lantern Festival “Yuan Xiao Jie” (元宵节), which marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. All types of lanterns are lit throughout the streets; poems and riddles are often written for entertainment. Paper lanterns are also created on wheels in the form of the animal of the year. Lion and Dragon Dances are performed everywhere again to bring the New Year celebrations to a grandiose end, whereas people send their wishes along with the lanterns to the heaven, hoping for a safe and successful new year.

庆祝中国新年/春节

中国新年的庆祝活动原是用来吓走神话中的邪恶野兽(年,相同于过年的年)。 传说每年年底,“年”会出现而蹂躏城镇和村庄。 因此,响爆竹和明亮的灯光都是为了吓走野兽或恶灵而制,15 日的春节庆祝活动也由此演变而来,成为中国传统中最重要的节日。 农历年通常是在 1月 底至2月 中,亚洲国家如中国大陆、台湾、新加坡、香港、越南、韩国和日本皆举行庆祝活动,而泰国、印度尼西亚、文莱、马来西亚和世界各地的中国人也追随传统习俗。家人和朋友聚会享受盛宴,并遵循传统礼仪。下面列出的是一些重要的习俗。

春节期间,街道、店面和家园皆装饰有写着吉祥的字或词组的红色对联,以及红灯笼、中国结、盆栽和金桔树。红色是无所不在的,因为中国文化中,红色意味财富和幸福。在农历新年前家家户户也需大扫除。窗户地板洗了,家具也得一尘不染 ,以便消除过去一年的霉气,给予新的一年美好的开始。但要注意的是,过年时需避免打扫,否则财富会被扫光。

过年的各项活动让人忙碌而快乐。市场上贩卖着红包、装饰品、玩具、衣服,礼品祭品的采购让人目不暇给 。家家户户喜气洋洋,人们穿上新衣服,拜年上庙堂,忙得不可开交。

除夕夜时人们将红包装满小额或丰厚的金额,放置在孩童或未婚/无业少年人的枕头下方。这是所谓的压岁,而红色则代表好运/财富和幸福。

除夕的团圆饭是一年中最重要的晚餐。家人通常聚集在一个亲戚家中或餐厅享用晚餐,接着在春节15 天的庆祝期间、亲属们会轮流举办聚会。已婚女儿于初二回娘家、而亲人集结之下、红包交手乃势在必然。春节传统的食品包括:

  • 八宝粥(含糯米、核桃、不同颜色的干果、葡萄干、甜红枣豆糊、杏仁)。

  • 汤圆 -- 黑芝麻或小糯米球汤、或混沌汤。

  • 鱼 -- 吃鱼的传统起因于汉字的“过剩”或“利润”(余)发音同于“鱼”。吃鱼会带来财富,每年都将有盈余的财富/鱼(年年有余/年年有鱼)。

  • 饺子的形状像中国古时的元宝,象征着财富。

  • 鸡、鸭、猪肉的菜式。

  • 柑橘象征着好运气。

  • 年糕或松糕

中国人自认是龙的传人,舞龙舞狮在春节期间跟随不间断的节奏鼓、爆竹和人声处处可见,人人见面便户道恭喜发财。初五当许多人需回到工作岗位,舞龙舞狮更会造访商店和企业办公楼宇,为人们带来好运。

农历15 日称为元宵节,这标志着中国新年庆祝活动的终点。各式各样的灯笼照亮着整个街道。人们集结猜灯谜,大型生肖纸灯更是形形色色,无奇不有。舞狮和舞龙表演则又随处可见,而人们也许愿将灯笼发送至天堂,期许新的一年福福泰泰、平平安安。

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