Happy Chinese New Year-the Year of the Tiger!
Happy Chinese New Year to you! Chinese New Year (or CYN) was on February 14th this year.
Chinese New Year Day is the first day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar year. The CNY Day is always between January 20 to February 20 of the Gregorian(regular) calendar each year. They say that CNY combines Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s into one holiday…so it’s a very big deal! Preparing for it starts about 3 weeks before, celebrating it takes 15 days…so it’s a long stretch from beginning to end!
So what is the story of it? Well, in Chinese history/mythology, the end of the year brought a monster (dragon named Nian) that would go around eating people on the last day of the year. In the story an old man came forth and talked the dragon out of eating people (who were not worthy opponents), and into eating other animals of prey(wolves, lions, tigers, etc.). This made these animals go hide in the woods to get away from Nian…a good thing for people. The monster was thus tamed by this old man (who later was found out to be a god in disguise). The monster(dragon) was known as Nian, which now means “year” in Chinese. Even though Nian was tamed, or talked out of eating people for fun, people were still superstitious. They worried Nian would sneak back and “chow down” on people again. So the old man told people to put up red paper, as the dragon was afraid of the color red…thus red is everywhere in China at CNY. The dragon was also afraid of loud sounds, so lots of firecrackers, fireworks, etc. are set of to scare him off.
CNY is also referred to as the Spring Festival, so families are supposed to completely clean their houses, to sweep away the evil forces, and welcome in good luck in the new year.. Along with the Thanksgiving idea, people return to their homes on CNY eve to eat with their family, play games all night, and keep every light lit in the house all night(conserving electricity is out!). One of the most popular CNY dinner courses is jiaozi, dumplings boiled in water. “Jiaozi” in Chinese literally means “sleep together and have sons.” Pretty clear who is important in Chinese families…
At midnight, and the rest of the night, there will be fireworks, fireworks, and more fireworks! This has also come to mean Good Luck in the New Year. The more fireworks also signify more prosperity.
In the morning of CNY, comes the Christmas-like part. Presents are exchanged, usually wrapped in red paper. Actually, the presents exchanged most is money in red envelopes. Parents place the envelopes under children’s pillows. It is expected that members of the older generation give red envelopes to the younger generation. The younger generation also gives envelopes to their elders, but with only token amounts of money. It’s the thought that counts. All of this, getting together, eating, playing games, exchanging presents honors the family…a key part of Chinese culture! New Year’s Day after red envelopes is saying good wishes to your family followed by friends and neighbors. Chinese say it is a good time to “cast away old grudges,” sort of a fresh start to the year, like a New Year’s Resolution.
As mentioned before, New Year’s celebration goes on for 15 days, ending with the Festival of Lanterns. The Festival coincides with the first full moon of the New Year. This event involves lantern shows(a sorts of decorative lanterns, there is often a parade of lanterns, kids participate), folk dancing, and is finished off with more fireworks! This day is also Chinese Valentine’s Day, and they say lovers enjoy the beautiful full moon.
It is the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac. The Year of the Ox is finishing up. If you are born in this year or 12 year cycles of it, it is your year…you will have good luck, especially if you wear red underwear! So there is a lot of red underwear for sale right now!