Of all the traditional Chinese festivals, the New Year is perhaps the most elaborate, colourful and important. This is the time for the Chinese to congratulate each other and themselves on having passed through another year – a time to finish out the old, and to welcome in the new year.
Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the First Moon of the lunar calendar. Socially, it is a time for family reunions, and for visiting relatives and friends. This holiday, more than any other Chinese holidays, stresses the importance of family ties.
A Family Affair
Every year, families gather for the annual reunion dinner on the evening before Chinese New Year – scoffing their faces in grandma’s famous crispy pork crackling, dumplings, chap chai, ngoh hiang, amongst other delicious food. Even if a family member could not attend the gathering, an empty seat wold be kept, symbolizing the person’s presence during the gathering dinner. Tradition has it that the dishes be prepared before New Year’s Day, so that all sharp instruments such as knives and scissors can be stored away safely, to avoid cutting the “luck” of the New Year. The kitchen must not be touched on the first day of the Year too.
Keeping the Grounds Clean
Preparations for the new year in old China starts well in advance of the New Year’s Day. It is believed that every corner of the house must be swept and cleaned before ushering in the new year. Some families will have couplets hung vertically on the walls or the sides of the gateways. Generally written in black ink on scrolls of red paper, these couplets are written in Classical Chinese, often expressing good wishes for the family in the coming year. On top of that, symbolic flowers, fruits and colourful new year pictures are also used to decorate the house.
Give Me Some of That
In the West, children look forward to opening their various gifts on Christmas morning. In China – and those celebrating Chinese New Year, it’s all about the red envelopes, commonly known as hóng bāo. Children receive a bunch of these from their parents and family members, stuffed with lucky money. In this digital era, electronic red envelopes have become increasingly popular. It’s sad to think that the future generation might not know the thrill of receiving and opening these red packets, thanks to technology.
The second and fifth day of this long celebration is all about worshipping the God of Wealth and welcoming him home. While these are all traditional activities and a lot has changed over the years, what hasn’t changed is the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The celebration on the last day still witnesses a large number of lanterns touching the sky with people savouring rice dumplings and guessing lantern riddles.
The modern twist to the Chinese New Year activities is the party and travel mode, which people have started getting into once the holidays start. It’s not just about meeting and greeting family now, but also taking time off work and relaxing oneself.
So, wherever you are…
From our Scuba Tiger family to yours: Gong Xi Fa Cai! 新年快乐、恭喜发财！祝大家身体健康, 万事如意，心相事成，年年有余！