Chinese New Year is here early this year! Today is the first day of Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year as it is referred to in some cultures. Chinese New Year falls on a different day each year from the Gregorian calendar that most of us are used to because the Chinese calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. Each year is named after an animal and goes in cycles of 12. We are celebrating the year of the Ox for 2009. Yes, it is a two week celebration and it begins today on the first day of the first lunar month. The celebration ends in two weeks with a Lantern Festival where bright lanterns are carried out in the streets by children.
Chinese New Year is a BIG celebration and I could fill an entire book on the background, the foods we eat, and how we celebrate so I’ll just discuss the things I remember about my childhood.
Homes are cleaned entirely to wash away any bad luck from the last year and no cleaning (especially sweeping) is to be done on Chinese New Year.
The holiday is centered around food where dishes are all symbolic. For example, noodles are served to symbolize long life. The word for fish is “Yu” which sounds like the words for both wish and abundance. So, we serve a whole fish to symbolize a good beginning and ending for the new year. Tangerines and oranges are also eaten because they symbolize luck and wealth.
New clothes (usually red and never black as it symbolizes death) are usually worn every day of the two week celebration. This can get costly so I don’t believe we’ve ever done this.
Red envelopes filled with money with an even digit (with the exception of 4) are given to children or unmarried adults younger than you by the married.
In parts of the world where the holiday is celebrated, you’ll also hear the sounds of the firecrackers. But my favorite part of the holiday is the lion dance and Chinese drums. When I hear the sounds of the drums, it brings me back to my childhood in San Francisco where it is always an amazing celebration.
Bellagio Las Vegas – 2008. If you ever get the opportunity, stop by Bellagio and see their extravagant Conservatory. They wow us every year!
Below is a video of a Lion Dance that took place in Victoria, BC. The drums always make me happy!
Happy New Year!