Starting today, prepare to follow the length and breadth of colorful traditions that makes up the Chinese New Year. Even if you’re not used to all the flavors or customs, reading about them, may inspire you to wear a little red today for good luck in the year of the Goat.
For the Chinese, celebrating New Year’s is a process, rather than a festivity in itself, and it all begins now. Here’s a short Guide to the Chinese New Year fest.
Give the Garbageman a Break
As unsanitary as most people think it is, the rules say that there is to be no bathing, washing clothes, cutting one’s hair or even taking out the trash, on this holiest of days. It is believed that it is like washing away all the prosperity and good luck that the new year has brought. One should let the good luck roll in, stay a while and settle. Give it time to “cure'”, and then, one may start cleaning as per normal. Husbands, will be back to taking the trash out tomorrow.
Get Out The Little Red Riding Hood Outfit
No need to be shy today. If there’s one thing one should remember it is that red is the luckiest color for the Chinese, no matter the occasion, but especially, on New Year’s Day. Not only should one observe wearing a red lipstick, dress or tie, but even the underwear must be in tone to portend all manners of prosperity and luck. So, take out that little red peacoat you’ve been daring to wear and enjoy the season.
All You Need Is A Dish, A Bowl and A Spoon
Chinese New Year is a family affair and all families gather to celebrate around tables of food-plate mosaics. The food is always prepared way ahead of time and must be eaten with forks or spoons alone in keeping with the superstition that all Knives must be hidden away during the beginning of the New year. The belief is that using a knife in the New year can cut out the good fortune or good relationships for the next year. Given that the festival lasts 15 days, storing pre-made meals is a serious matter.
The good news is that from new year’s eve onward, you are encouraged to indulge in the sweetest tooth by eating seed tarts and cakes, to ensure that your personality and relationships with your family remain in a sugar-coated state throughout the year.
Other typical foods to eat that bring happiness and mirth are the won ton and dim sum which are shaped like veritable pouches. The Chinese say these pouches are like money bags, so the more you eat, the richer you become. Noodles are also a favorite food as their length means a long life.
Tables are notably round, as seen in typical restaurants in and around Chinatown. The reasons are central to the theory of Feng shui and have to do with the concepts of the uninterrupted flow of qi. A circle lets the qi flow freely and equally around the circumference and across to all points of the table, and the metal shape which is thought to activate one’s energy given the yang aspect of the metal element.
For those keen on whetting their appetite with a dose of Chinese cuisine, check out http://www.healthyfreshfood.com/index.html and make your booking or call for takeout.
Let’s Make Some Noise
In every corner store, in every street, in every Chinatown, in every city in the world, the clamoring and pounding of the Dragon and Lion Dances will be the sight to see. Considered the climax of the Spring festival, the Dragon and Lions leap and bound with positive energy into shops to scare away the bad spirits and chase away any commercial losses. The Dragon, in particular, is a dominant figure of power, strength, wealth, and growth, so owners pay handsomely for the party to reach the back-offices as well as the front till. These visits are organized by the community and everyone partakes of the sinuous procession. Crowds amass round the mythical creature and get in its way thereby forcing the dragon to dance through them as it gives off its many blessings. Puppet masters take the dragon from one side of the road to the other to the beat of clanging gongs and panning drums as it climbs up posts, sweeps under railings in vermicular movements that infect the air with positivity.
The Lion also takes part in the parade, in a complementary role. This animal will be wearing colorful clothes and is led by a single artist. In a bout of playful dexterity, the lion, as opposed to the dragon, will enter only the houses that have left a red envelop with money and a treat as gratitude to the heavenly and earthly gods. They welcome the good tidings of the lion as a symbol of life and prosperity.
Amid the firecrackers and fireworks, support crews also take the stage. Many local martial arts and music schools will do fringe acts to entertain the crowds in this day-long celebration. We are fortunate enough to have two opportunities to watch the lions do their prance this year. Be sure to go to http://www.chinatown-directory.com/chinese-new-year-celebrations.html for a schedule of events planned in Boston’s Chinatown.
Respect For The Elderly
One tradition that defines Chinese culture is that of paying homage to ancestors. The Chinese idea of 3 realms of the universe–the Celestial, the Earthly and the Human palaces–, are recognized when praying. One cannot start celebrating unless prayers at the altar at home or at the temple, have been performed. Sometimes, offerings are made and incense is burnt to honor the spirits of the ancestors who have the power to bless the family with good luck.
It is on this occasion, that children, especially, are taught to honor their ancestors and is how these values are passed on.
If you’re looking to copy this intention of prayer, you can do some thanksgiving of your own at the Chinese Buddhist Temple in Quincy.http://thousandbuddhatemple.org/
This is a time of rest. Known as the period of disputes, it is advisable to just stay away from close family members. It is quite unlucky to visit relatives or friends, so one should postpone any get-together at home or away as it could blow up into an argument.
Another peculiar superstition is that the Chinese prefer not to purchase any kind of shoe during this month because the word “shoe” sounds a lot like”sigh” in Chinese and repeating this listless word may be a way of unwittingly calling misfortune to your life.
Prior to the Festival winding down to its close, delicious dinners are organized to treat the family. Usually, at this time, the much anticipated hongbao or red money envelopes are given by the parents to the dependent members of the household such as children or singles as a way to spread the wealth. If one is ever given one, it is polite to accept it regardless of your income, but the pockets should be either opened in secret or stay unopened in a profitable corner of the home for the entire year to multiply.
Elsewhere, the farmers show off their produce in fairs or give their earth-grown gifts to the jade Emperor.
The undisputed highlight of the festival is the final day, when the Festival of Lanterns takes place. Children and adults spend much time hand-making red paper lanterns in different sizes and shapes from the Chinese zodiac animals so that they can be lit and hung. This happens to be a beautiful day to make love petitions as it is is the 1st full moon of the year.
I hope this post has created some excitement around the Chinese New Year. But, to find out all the events that are happening for the festival in Boston, visit http://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/blog/2015/02/17/chinese…. Gong Xi fa Cai!