Chinese New Year
February usually marks the month of the New Year accordingto the Chinese calendar. But for me, Chinese New Year is a payday. Usually Ireceive red envelopes, hong bao, which are the equivalent of Christmas presents.Instead of wondering what the present will be, though, it is the amount of moneyinside that is the mystery. The lucky money is actually a sign of prosperity, andthe envelopes are red to scare away evil spirits. I always have to wait weeks tofind out what my parents have in store for me.
I never knew where or howthe traditions of Chinese New Year originated, and I never gave it much thought,until my mom forced me to attend a special Chinese school, where we learned aboutthe traditions behind the famous celebration. I had no knowledge of how thehanging of the red papers or the firecrackers began; as selfish as it may sound,the only parts of the holiday that had ever concerned me were the hong baos andthe food.
I learned there was once a beast, the nien (which means"year"), who terrorized villages and even began feeding on people.Hoping to rid themselves of this monster, the villagers realized the beast wasafraid of the color red, fire and the loud crackling noise that bamboo makes whenburning. So when winter fell upon the village, the people hung red peach-paperson their doors, banged on instruments, burned bamboo (whose crackling sound wouldgive rise to the Chinese firecracker) and lit bonfires. When the beast came, hewas terrified and fled into the mountains, never to return. Year after year thevillagers continued the traditions, which they do to this day. Now, celebrationsfor the coming year continue until February 15th, the LanternFestival.
Chinese New Year is a wonderful holiday not just because of thehong bao but also because of the food. My mom is a culinary genius and myfavorite dish is her dumplings, jiaozi. She puts in extra meats and fries them ina special way. I love them so much that my record for the most I've eaten at onetime is 30!
For Chinese New Year my mom makes dish after dish oftraditional food, and we have a special dinner involving a small electric pot.The pot is like a portable stove; it's narrow at the bottom with a large openingknown as huo guo. Food is cooked in front of us while we eat. My mom makes aspecial sauce and usually adds quail eggs, a delicacy. Traditional family feastsalso include cakes, most commonly rice cakes made of glutinous rice flour. Sweettreats symbolize good luck, and I always eat until my stomach is stuffedfull.
The excitement that comes with anticipating New Year's is one I willnever tire of. While the real celebrations are taking place in China and Taiwan,my family holds its own traditions. I can always count on my mom to make the samedelicious foods every year, and there is a comfort in knowing that as my sistersand I open our hong bao, our cousins so many miles away are doing thesame.
Shing nien kwai le, gung xi fa cai -
Have a happy andprosperous new year.
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Chinese New year is one of the most important traditional holidays in China. The day is celebrated on the first day of the first month according to Chinese calendar and is also known as Lunar New Year. The day is rooted in centuries old customs and traditions and is one of the most popular public holidays in China. Apart from China, the day is also celebrated in countries like Korea, Bhutan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong etc., which follows the Chinese calendar.
According to the popular myth, the origin of this day lies in the fight against Nian, a beast in Chinese mythology. The beast would visit the cities and eat cattle, crops and even people. In order to protect themselves from the beast, people would place food at their doorsteps after which the beast wouldn't harm them. However, once the people saw that the beast was scared of the color red. From then on, on the first day of every new year, people would hand red paper lanterns and other things red to scare off the beast. They would also light firecrackers in order to scare the beast away. After some time, the beast stopped coming to the city.
In some other cities like San Francisco, the day has its origins in the famous parade carried out by their ancestors. In 1849, many Chinese men came to the city to try their fortune after the Gold Rush. After facing hostility from the local people, they decided to hold a parade in order to showcase their culture and tradition to the localities. Ever since, the day is celebrated with a street parade in San Francisco.
Chinese New Year is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the world. The predominant color in all the celebrations of this day is red. According to tradition, red envelopes containing money are given by the elderly to the young. The money contained in these red envelopes is always even, which is determined by the left-most digit than the right-most one. The red envelopes are symbolic of staving off evil and bringing in good luck.
People exchange gifts and light firecrackers on this day. Other traditions associated with this day include hanging of the Fu symbol on the main door of the house which is supposed to bring good luck and wearing red color clothes. Dragon and Lion dances are also very popular during Chinese New Year.