BVU Celebrates Chinese New Year
We are delighted that our Intercultural Program Coordinator Julie Ng has provided the following article about Chinese New Year!
Year of the Ox – Feb 12, 2021
The Ox is the second of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Ox was about to be the first to arrive, but Rat tricked Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox. Thus, Ox became the second animal.
Personality and Characteristics
Oxen are honest and earnest. They are low key and never look for praise or to be the center of attention. This often hides their talent, but they’ll gain recognition through their hard work.
They believe that everyone should do what’s asked for them and stay within their bounds. Though they are kind, it’s difficult for them to understand persuasion using pathos. Rarely losing your temper, they think logically and make great leaders.
It’s easy to see when the Lunar New Year is around the corner – festive scarlet decor adorns every street, storefront and home. Being associated with wealth and good fortune, red decorations are hung to ward off Nian – a lion-like monster that is afraid of the colour red, according to LNY mythology.
The belief is that the loud noise of the firecrackers serves to scare Nian, the lion-like monster who legend says rose from the sea for a feast of human flesh on the new year.
Nian mythology also plays out during lion dances across LNY festivities – one of the most globally recognised traditions because of its prominence in diaspora celebrations. This colourful traditional dance is performed outdoors to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals, sometimes as a street parade – or in the air, if a flying lion dance is taking place.
In parts of China, where the holiday is called Spring Festival, bright floral arrangements and fruit trees also brighten homes and streets – peach and apricot blossoms hold special significance for the celebration of Tết in Vietnam. In Korea, birds join these decorations – decorative cranes symbolise longevity while magpies represent good fortune.
New clothes are also believed to bring good luck and start over fresh. People will add new red clothing to their Spring Festival wardrobe too.
There is also the tradition of welcoming guests with tea and sweet treats, such as sugared fruits which are supposed to sweeten one’s upcoming year. Sweets and fruits are served on a round or octagonal tray – the form resembling togetherness and hence the tray is most commonly translated as the “Tray of Togetherness”.
Red envelopes – Lucky Money
In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays. Gifts are also exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too—red envelopes. Also called red packets or pockets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends. With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now.
For Seollal celebrations in Korea, these presents take the form of red satchels, and monetary gifts are accompanied by encouraging messages and blessings of good luck for the new year.
Most people in the northern China will eat dumplings during the New Year’s Eve dinner. Others will eat them for the first breakfast. In the South, people would rather eat spring rolls (egg rolls) and balls of glutinous rice in soup called tangyuan.
15 Days of Customs for Chinese People all over the world
Different traditions and customs will happen during the first 15 day.
The oldest and most senior members will be visited, the visits serve to strengthen family ties.
Abstaining from meat consumption on the first day is believed to enhance longevity. Additionally, a vegetarian dish helps to purify and cleanse out the body as well as it honors a Buddhist tradition that nothing living should be killed on the first day of the New Year.
People say that after being offered sacrifices, the God of Wealth, leaves for heaven on the second day of the lunar New Year.
Traditionally married women will visit and pay respect to their birth parents.
On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods.
The third day of the New Year is allocated to grave-visiting instead. Some people conclude it is inauspicious to do any house visiting at all, as it is believed that evil spirits roam the earth this day and hence it would be bad luck to be outdoors.
A continuity of the 3rd day.
The day is regarded as the birthday of the God of Wealth and hence respect is paid to the god. All businesses will be reopened on that day.
A time to visit other relatives and friends.
This is literally Human Day, and is considered to be the birthday of ordinary human kind.
A lot of the traditions during day 8-14 have been ignored or forgotten in the modern and urban society, but to prepare for the Lantern Festival on the 15th day.
This day marks the first full moon in the New Year, and is known as Lantern Festival Day. The festival is associated with guiding lost and ill-bred evil spirits home, while celebrating and cultivating positive relationship between people, families, nature and the higher beings as they are believed to be responsible for bringing and returning the light each year.
This history of the festival could be traced back to 202 B.C. and is known to be a day for love because this is the only day when Chinese women, who had to stay indoors for most of their lives, were allowed to admire the lanterns and the full moon on this day. Dressed in their most beautiful clothes and putting on their most shining hairpins, the ancient Chinese, noblemen and ordinary people included, would swarm the streets, where dancers and musicians, acrobats and vendors would gather as fireworks were lit and lanterns displayed. There were also riddles written on the lanterns, with many people competing to solve them. Most of the riddles were written in the form of poems.
While the festive atmosphere, the performances, and the moonlight created the best time for a date, it was almost the only time for young men and women to meet with each other and fall in love. Therefore, this day is known to the Chines Valentine’s Day. Today, the connotation of love in the festival has been almost lost, as young couples could date whenever they want and women are no longer confined indoors. But the lantern shows remain the focus of the festival.