By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, the Chinese New Year is an important, traditional Chinese holiday that is observed from the New Moon of the new year and lasts until the full moon on the 15th day, which is called the Lantern Festival.
While traditions vary from region to region, it is customary for families to clean their homes thoroughly the night before as an act to sweep away any ill-fortune and make way for incoming good luck.
Chinese families come together for what is known as an annual, reunion dinner in which they remember and honour their ancestors with thanksgiving. Originally, this was practiced with religious ceremony to honour Heaven and Earth and the gods of a household, while the ancestors are acknowledged with dinner placed for them at the banquet table, which is called weilu and symbolizes family unity.
Windows and doors are decorated with poems on red paper that encourage blessings for the New Year. A popular example of this is, May the Star of Happiness, the Star of Wealth, and the Start of Longevity shine on you.
Other decorations include blooming plants, which symbolizes rebirth and wealth. Should a plant blossom on New Year’s Day in a home, it prophesizes a year filled with prosperity. Oranges and tangerines with an enclosed lai is usually taken when visiting family or friends during the 15-day Chinese celebration. They represent your relationship with your family member or friend remains secure.
Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness. There is also a candy tray, which is usually arranged in a circle or octagon to start the New Year sweetly. The tray is called The Tray of Togetherness. After taking pieces of candy from the tray, it is customary for people to place a red envelope in the center of the tray. Examples of candies and what they represent are as follows:
- melon: growth, good health
- red melon seed: joy, truth, sincerity
- lychee nut: strong family realtionships
- cumquat: prosperity
- coconut: togetherness
- peanuts: long life
- longnan: many good sons
- lotus see: many children
At midnight, every door and window is opened to allow the old year to leave in order to welcome the new one in. Red is usually worn on this festive oaccasion ensured to bring the wearer a bright future. And children, unmarried friends, and close relatives are given lai see, small red envelopes with money inside (usually one dollar), for good fortune.
The Year of the Horse
The Chinese Zodiac called Sheng Xiao is based on a 12-year cycle where each year in that cycle is associated with an animal sign.
The animal signs include:
The spirit of the horse is to make efforts to improve himself. The horse is energetic, warm, intelligent, and able, which is considered as a Qianli Ma, “a horse that covers a thousand li a day.”
Strengths of the Horse
People born in the year of the horse are excellent communicators who enjoy being in the limelight. They are clever, kind, cheerful, though they are known to tend to talk too much. They enjoy entertaining large crowds, are popular with friends, and active at work, who refuse to succumb to failure. Weaknesses of the Horse The horse cannot bear too much restraint. And their interest may only be superficial, lacking real substance. They can be impatient and hot-tempered especially about their daily work. Because they are independent, they rarely listen to advice. While they are flamboyant, they also tend to be wasteful, not especially good with finances. They also tend to interfere and frequently fail to finish projects on their own.
The Year of the Horse in 2014
This year is considered to be the Year of Birth, Benming Nian, a year to offend Taisui, the god thought to oversee people’s fortune. This year, fortune will fluctuate, be unstable, and will require care. It is suggested that faced with difficulties, strength should be sought as well as good behaviour. It would be more beneficial to be confident rather than insecure, to connect more with family than to complain to colleagues.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year?
Which part of the Chinese New Year celebrations do you find most intriguing?
Which animal are you in the Chinese Zodiac?