Today is Chinese New Year. It is the Year of the Goat/Sheep. According to the ‘South China Morning Post’ this year is one of peace, harmonious co-existence and relates to passive and nurturing times. So it seems to be a year of “love thy neighbour” and all that. The fact that it is the Green Wooden Goat year also signifies that mental ability will triumph over brute force, so keep your wits about to you folks!
If you don’t know if you’re a goat or not, the years of the goat are as follows: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967 etc.
The basic traditions for New Year are as follows:
New Year’s Eve Dinner
The New Year’s Eve dinner is the most important dinner for the Chinese. Normally, this is the family reunion dinner, especially for those with family members away from home. During the dinner, normally fish will be served. Dumplings are the most important dish in Northern China. These two dishes signify prosperity. Other dishes are dependent on personal preference. The majority of Chinese will have New Year’s Eve dinner at home instead of a restaurant.
Fireworks are used to drive away the evil in China. Right after 12:00PM on New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be launched to celebrate the coming of the New Year as well as to drive away the evil. It is believed that the person who launched the first firework of the New Year will obtain good luck.
Shou Sui means “after the New Year’s Eve dinner” as family members will normally stay awake during the night. Some people just stay up until the midnight after the fireworks. According to tales and legends, there was a mythical beast named the “Year”. At the night of New Year’s Eve, the “Year” will come out to harm people, animals, and proprieties. Later, people found that the “Year” is afraid of the color red, fire, and loud sounds. Therefore, at the New Year’s Eve night, people will launch fireworks, light fires, and stay awake the whole night to fend off the “Year”.
The Red packet is a red envelope with money in it, which ranges from one to a few thousand Chinese Yuan. Usually the red racket is given by adults, especially married couples, and elderly to young children in the New Year days. It was believed that the money in the red packet will suppress the evil from the children, keep them healthy, and give them a long life.
New Year Markets
In the course of the New Year’s days, a temporary market will be setup to mainly selling New Year goods, such as clothing, fireworks, decorations, food, and small arts. The market is usually decorated with a large amount of lanterns.
Small year is the 23rd or 24th of the last month of the year. It is said that this is the day the food god will leave the family in order to go to heaven and report the activity of family to the Emperor of the heaven. People will follow religious ceremony to say farewell to the food god, including taking down and burning the paint of the food god. After the New Year’s Day, people will buy new paint of the food god and display it in the kitchen.
A few days before the Chinese New Year, people will do a complete cleaning of the house and house wares which signifies to remove the old and welcome the new. Historically, when bathing did not occur often, people would normally take one to welcome the New Year.
After the cleaning, people will decorate the house to welcome the New Year. Most of the decorations are red in color. The most popular New Year decorations are upside down fu, dui lian, lanterns, year paint, papercutting, door gods, etc.
*used google to find out about most of these…
- Put your feet up and relax. Certainly the most enjoyable of the Chinese New Year superstitions, sweeping and cleaning is strictly forbidden. The Chinese believe cleaning means you’ll sweep all of your good luck out the front door.
- Before you can enjoy number two, you need to give the house a full spring clean, before putting cleaning tools in the cupboard on New Year’s Eve.
- Make sure you avoid rough seas in the new year by not buying shoes over the holiday period. In Cantonese, shoes are a homonym for ‘rough’.
- The practice of giving Mandarin oranges is also a symbol of good luck. They are exchanged in two’s among friends and families, relating to the Chinese saying that “good things come in pairs”.
- If you’re in debt, it’s time to dip into your pockets and pay people off. The Chinese believe that if you start the new year in the red, you’ll finish it the same way.
- Lighting firecrackers or having fireworks is a major custom performed to scare off evil spirits and celebrate the coming of the New Year.
- Caught round a campfire over the holiday period? No ghost stories. Tales of death, dying and ghosts is considered supremely inauspicious, especially during Chinese New Year.
- Chinese New Year is packed with colors, and while all the colors of the rainbow bring good luck, it’s the color red that is considered the ultimate luck bringer.
- Hong Kongers have a sweet touch at the best of times, but Chinese New Year offers the perfect chance to raid the sweet shop, as eating candies is said to deliver a sweeter year.
- Chinese people believe that it is important not to wash their hair on the first day of the new year as it may wash away one’s luck. (Well that’s my luck down the drain…)
- Welcome in the New Year with a blast of fresh air, opening your windows is said to let in good luck.
- Sharp objects are said to be harbingers of bad luck, as their sharp points cut out your good luck, pack them away.
Just being here reinstates my love for kids.
I had a short and really uninteresting conversation to anyone besides me but I wanted to write down this moment for me. So bear with me or scroll way down! 😀 A few days ago, I had an apple to eat and I’ve always quite a picky eater which means that I avoid eating the bits of an apple that are cut into or have been dinked slightly… As I was eating it, 哥哥 came up to me..
哥哥 (to me): Why are you eating it like that?
Me: Because I don’t like eating those bits.
哥哥：But I always eat those bits. Why don’t you eat them?
Me: I don’t like those marks.
哥哥：Marks? I have marks.
> He lifts his foot up to show me a little mark below his little toe <
Me: Oh you have a birth mark?
Me: Birth marks are cool.
哥哥：You like them?
Me: Yeah *thinking “well there’s nothing bad about birth marks!”*
哥哥：Why don’t you eat them then?
Me: *thinking “flipping heck, this kid cannot outsmart me”* because these marks are different to those ones. *he starts running away at this point so he mishears me* I don’t eat those marks.
哥哥：you eat marks? *thinking I was suddenly talking about the birth marks*
Me: No not birth marks!
哥哥: So you eat all the apple now?
I just start giggling now as he runs off in pursuit of another toy. We’ve had a couple of similar conversations and I’m starting to wonder whether he thinks I’m crazy. He’s only four!
I’ve heard of the ‘loom band craze’ recently. Once I read a story on the news that said a young girl was making hundreds of pounds on eBay selling loomband dresses and jewellery. Now Charleigh, one of Tim’s daughters, is selling loombands on the apartment compound by the food shop. She has made £58 already! Maybe I should join in…
On Chinese New Year’s Eve I helped Cathy cook and bake food for the Big Day. She cooked Turnip Cake and made Tang Yuan. Turnip cake is savoury and the Tang Yuan is sweet. It was fun rolling the frozen balls of toasted sesame powder and putting them into the glutinous rice “dough”. I enjoyed the Tang Yuan however it is so sweet that I think I’ll only ever have one at a time! However the Turnip Cake is amazzzzzzing. Once it is cooked, you put it in the fridge to cool, to then get it out when you want to eat it. Then you cut off a few slices and fry it until it’s slightly crispy on the outside and voila, it’s ready to devour!
I am definitely going to be rolling my way back to Ningbo at this rate.. and without needing a wheelchair!! Nevertheless I am excited for the festivities to get under way. I am definitely following the ‘shou sui’ tradition right now as it is past two o’clock in the morning! And, with that, I bid you all goodnight.