Saturday, February 6, 2010

About Chinese New Year!

Lucky Plants As RED is a color of luck and happiness, and yellow & orange are similar to Golden, you can see the Flower Market is an ocean of red and yellow/orange! The most traditional plants for home are peach flowers, Daffodils, and Mandarin oranges on trees. They became the symbols of Spring Festival, like Christmas trees for Christmas. Because Cantonese believe peach flowers bring fortune and love. And mandarin oranges pronounced the same as "luck" in Chinese, many fruits on trees means good harvest, and also for the fruit color is like gold. Especially in hotels or shopping malls, in a lobby or at the entrance there must be a huge peach tree with flowers surrounded by mandarin orange trees, with lots of red envelopes, "Lei-see", hanging on. The second popular plants are Orchids and Chrysanthemums.

Superstition It seems that every one become superstitious these days. People try not to say any bad luck, or negative words, such as "die","empty", "sad", etc. When you have to express this meaning, replace with other similar or good meaning words, which sometimes makes the expression completely different from what you want to say! It's funny and interesting.

New Year Eve On New Year Eve, every family member is expected to be home and have a big dinner together, which is called "reunion dinner". This dinner is usually being prepared since morning. Chicken, duck, pork meat and sea food are the common courses. And the meat for the coming 2 or 3 day need would be prepared before/on Eve, too. Superstitious people don't do (animal) killing the first 2 or 3 days of a new year. Some will just eat vegetable only.

"Reunion dinners" are served earlier than usual days, at around 4:00-5:00 pm. Due to many activities coming next. Before the dinner finished, the parents give "Lei-see" to every one. And every body must say some good luck words, or good wishes in return.
After an "Aromatic Shower" (Water boiled with some typical herbs and mandarin orange skins, of fresh and sweet-smelling), every one puts on brand new clothes and gets ready for the coming activities. Some go out for parties; some go to Flower Market (before midnight, everything's on sale!); Some go to temples and wait for being the first one to "burn joss sticks" and make wishes at midnight sharp. It's said that if you are the first one, you get extra attention from God. So all your wishes will come true! Some just stay home, playing "Ma-jiang(a Chinese game played by 4 people, usually for gambling)", or chatting with long unseen families, joining more than 80% other Chinese watching CCTV "Soiree Show" and waiting for the new year count down. In the same time, dumplings are ready to be served. Eating dumplings in New Year Eve midnight is a long history tradition connecting with a war victory celebration. Till now, more meaning has been added, such as peace loving, expectation of better future and reunion for families, for country, and for whole world.
And at least one light remains on day and night for 4-10 days since New Year Eve, symbolizing "peace, safety, and bright future". In stead of regular lights, many people light up typical Chinese red lanterns, too.

New Year Day Children are the most excited ones. As they are not only allowed to stay up as much as they want, playing fireworks, but also receive lots of "Lei-see" which content from a 5 or 10 Yuan note minimum to hundred, or thousand Yuan notes in cash! Also according to Cantonese custom, Single people at any ages have the same right as children, receiving "Lei-see" from married people!
"Kong Hey Fat Choi! (Wish you good fortune!)" People greet each other with this words since New Year Day. Parents give the second "Lei-see" to their children at first sight they see each other on the morning, including the married children. "Kong Hey Fat Choi!" is Cantonese, but almost every Chinese understand it. But for single people, when they meet their married friends, they say, "Kong Hey Fat Choi! Lei-see low loi (Give me Lei-see)!" and stretch out hands to them meanwhile! If you are unmarried, you absolutely have every reason to ask for "Lei-see" from every married friend. You can even threaten them by saying some bad luck words, if they dare say no!
New Year Day dinner is important, too. If you miss the New Year Eve one, you shouldn't miss this one then. Because the New Year Eve dinner means "Good ending", and the one on the New Year Day means "Good beginning". With all hope and good wishes of a new year, every course at table has good meaning. Some food there because the name sounds the same, or similar to the good luck words. For example, Oysters with mushrooms, means "Good business"; Fishes mean "More than enough"; Lettuce, "Good fortune"; meat balls mean "Reunion" because of their round shapes. Total dish number is usually 6(which means Everything goes smoothly), or 8 (Good fortune), or 9(Everything good lasts long), or 10(Full/rich/perfect).

The 1st and 2nd New Year Day, people usually visit some very close friends, or relatives, and bosses too. If you are married, whenever you go out, check your pocket to make sure you have enough "Lei-see" in. It's a small world. You may meet your friend with his kid in the street, or, your friend's friends kids at your friend?s place! And don't forget to take your child with you, too!---This giving and asking for "Lei-see" lasts for 15 days after New Year Day.

The 3rd day is cleaning day. Since the first and the second day are the very beginning of a year, any cleaning (even taking showers or laundry) is regarded as giving good luck and fortune away, all cleaning is piled up to the third day. It is believed that all bad things for the new year are cleaned out of door together with dust and dirt. Therefore, on this day, people try not to visit friends, to prevent bringing their "bad luck" home!

On the 4th day, Married women are expected to visit their own parents...

The 7th day is the birthday for human beings. It's said that human beings were created on this day. Besides Happy New Year and "Kong Hey Fat Choi", people also say Happy birthday to each other, too.

The 10thday is nearly the end of New Year time. Many people get back to work after this day. If your mind is still on holiday, wait for 5 more days! Another traditional festival is coming!

Lantern Festival is on the 15th day of a new year. As this day is the first full moon day of a year, it's also regarded as "Chinese Valentine's Day". In Chinese culture, Full moon is a symbol of romance, love and reunion.
People in north of China celebrate it with various activities. One of it is going to temple fairs, where people all dressed up in ancient costumes playing acrobatics, local dramas, and selling all kinds of smack snack food.
The focus of the day is certainly the Lantern Exhibition. Thousands of lanterns display in a park, with different sizes--Some are as large as tall buildings, some are as tiny as butterflies. Motifs involve many different things, not only sculpts of famous characters, animals, flowers, but also well-known fairy tales, famous historical events, current affairs, and so on. It is an exhibition of lights, as well as a show of traditional skills and hi-technology. Some of them take whole year to be done!
Typical food for Lantern Festival is round sweet dumplings, which is served after dinner as desert. They have similar meaning to the Full Moon.

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