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CHINESE NEW YEAR

While the western world has learnt to take the new-year on its stride, by February, the Chinese and Japanese suddenly wake up to celebrate life, somewhere around spring! Yes, the Chinese have a new-year too and it falls a month after January that is in the spring month of February.

Known as Li Chun, the solar new-year usually falls on the 4th of February every year. Unlike the new-year that begins on the dot of 12 midnight all over, the Chinese year commences at a different time every year. This year, the year of the rat began at 19:00, on 7th February! The time of the arrival is marked in the ‘Tong-shu’ which is the Chinese almanac. The tong shu considers the lunar, as well as the solar cycle. Thus, the new-year starts on the new moon day of the new-year, ending on the full moon day, thereby extending up to 14 days!

How is New Year celebrated?

On new-year’s eve, fire-crackers are lit to scare away the devils and thus the old and tired year leaves.

The Chinese spring clean their homes prior to new-year and not during new-year. Sweeping, mopping etc makes one sweep or mop away prosperity. The Gods will be raining fortune during the new-year and hence homes should be cleansed clean to welcome blessings. It’s only after new-year, do Chinese sweep dirt or wash their hair!

Wei lu

New-year is like any other traditional festival that is celebrated across the globe. Like Christmas, where relatives and friends gather, the Chinese culture seeped in traditions, new-year is usually a family affair. However, all the dining and wining is preceded by paying obeisance to departed souls. The Chinese go as far as to find a suitable spot for their own burial, even when they are alive and kicking. In yin house Feng Shui that deals with finding a suitable site for burying the dead, people ensure that their ancestors are buried at a suitable spot after death, as this brings immense good fortune to descendants. Thus, many traditional Chinese people with the help of Feng Shui masters help find a suitable spot for themselves even before their death! Little wonder then that even Chinese new- year celebrations commence with paying ones respects to departed ancestors. Living elders are given a cordial treatment and revered.

This coming together of young and old and by honoring the departed souls, during the feasting marks the wei lu or community feast, signifying the unity between family members.

None should be found crying, as if you cry on this day, you will have to cry throughout the year!

The 15 day long celebrations

New-year begins in spring and people decorate their homes with blossoms of spring flowers like peonies and plum blossoms which signify prosperity and fertility. All ensure that their garden has one flower blossoming on new-year.

At the altar, along with flowers, are placed oranges, lemons and pomegranates. The orange, yellow and red colors spell life and vitality. People wear red, yellow and green and avoid white and black.

On the first day, people abstain from meat. The second day is celebrated as the birthday of dogs and pet and strays are fed for the canine’s unflinching loyalty. On the third to the fourth day, men pay respects to their in-laws, because the woman a man has married was groomed by devoted parents who raised devoted, humane, kind and chaste daughters. The oriental philosophy considers women as wealth and women are harbingers of prosperity!

On the fifth day known as Po Wu, people usually do not venture out of their homes, as it is believed that the God of Wealth would visit them at home. However, the sixth day marks a time to visit temples, relatives and friends.

The seventh day is celebrated as farmer’s day. Remember, Chinese new-year falls in spring! The Chinese have divided the year into five main seasons. As new-year falls in spring, it is also celebration time for farmers, who take pride in the fresh foliage that spring up and the greenery surrounding them. Noodles signifying fertility and prosperity are cooked and eaten.

On the 8th day, Chinese pray to Tian Gong or the Gods of the heavens. On the 9th day, food offerings are made to the Jade emperor. The rest of the days, people just celebrate by eating, drinking and inviting loved ones for parties and of course attending parties too. On the 13th day, people partake only of simple meals, to cleanse the bowels after heavy partying.

The lantern festival

The famous lantern-festival for which the land is famous, is celebrated on the 14th and the 15th day. If you notice, the new-year commences on a new moon day and ends on a full moon day. Thus, on the 15th day, as the moon appears alluring as a ball of white light on an ink blue sky, people create resplendent lanterns to resemble moon and the whole land is illuminated with light!

The Dingshikou town in Beijing houses and sells various lanterns and the entire place is illuminated with beautiful lantern. The place is so called because Ding in Chinese means lantern or soft light and shi is market or shop. Thus the name Dingshikou.

Legend has it that the Jade emperor in the heaven was furious when he found his goose dead on earth. He wanted to set the town ablaze, but a fairy informed the people on earth and advised them to hold thousands of lanterns that night. Upon seeing the several lanterns swimming mid-air on earth, resembling a raging fire, the Jade emperor’s anger was quelled. 

Entry of the Buddha

The lantern festival is also believed as the dream of the Buddha a king had, which made him build a temple for the Buddha in China. 

Yuan Yuan Xiao and Tang Yuan are sweets made of rice balls that are devoured. Round rice balls signify the cycles of seasons, of luck and symbolize unity.  

Youngsters are gifted with a red envelope called ‘Lai See’, which contains money given by elders. People wish each other with Kung Hey Fat Choy or Happy New Year!


 

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