Happy Chinese New Year – Gong Xi Fa Cai

Let’s talk culture. Because I want to. And because it is so much a part of the wedding world I live it. Culture, tradition, superstition. Every wedding has its own unique elements.

This Thursday, February 5, 2008, Chinese people all around the world, along with Koreans, the Vietnamese, and a few others will celebrate what is known as the Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year). Heck, even my Irish mother in law celebrates it. And I mean she really celebrates. Her Feng Shui Master gives her a list of “to dos”. Anyway, Happy Year of the Rat!! Each year Chinese New Year falls on a different day because they are utilizing a Chinese Lunar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar. The celebration is larger than the New Year we are used to celebrating on January 1, 2008. Chinese New Year spans 14 days and ends with a Lantern Festival in which bright lanterns are carried out in the streets by children.

I’m not going to attempt to know all the festivities and tradition that goes along with this special holiday. I’ve been celebrating since I was a little girl so I will only describe what I can remember. There are many festivities, plenty of “symbolic” food such as whole fish, noodles for long life, mandarin oranges, dumplings, and so many more, firecrackers/fireworks, dragon dances, lion dances, Chinese drums, new clothing is worn, the color red is all over the place, and kids and unmarried adult children are given red envelopes with money in them. Last year I learned that I will never receive one of those envelopes again. The only negative part about being married!

I do, of course, have to share a few related stories. Being knowledgeable about different cultures is obviously crucial to my line of work. It’s important to have a basic understanding of different cultures to be able to assist the different brides and grooms. So, a few years ago, I saw a picture of a beautiful cake shaped like a Chinese “house”. It looked like a Pagoda. I’m not sure what it was but I showed my mother, thinking that it would be a cake I could use for my own wedding. She looked at it, froze, and took a huge gasp of air. It turns out that this is used to house the dead in China. Well, there goes that idea I guess. The Chinese people are extremely superstitious! So, you see it is extremely important to be educated about different cultures and I am thankful that I didn’t show it to a mother of one of my clients!!

Another thing happened that could have led to embarrassment. The Chinese character for “luck” (Fu) is utilized all over the place during the Chinese New Year.

I saw a picture on a promo or press release material and instantly knew it was upside down. I told a few people around me that it was incorrect but that there must have been a reason for it. Google was my friend and informed me that it is intentionally placed upside down during Chinese New Year to mean “fortune has arrived.” Well, there you have it. I still have plenty to learn about not only my own culture, but the many other cultures that make up this beautiful world.

Now here are a few pictures to enjoy…

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