Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!
Today starts the year of the Ox, I believe. We're not actually Chinese, but we have a lot of friends who are, so we've celebrated this holiday since Emma was about 18 months old. (In fact, Emma has saved her "red envelopes" from her friend, Crystal from every year!)
It's a very fun holiday! Here is some information you may not have known!
Some traditions that people do on Chinese new year are:
1. Clean house and new clothes: According to Celebrate Chinese New Year by Elaine A. Kule, prior to the first day of the New Year it is customary for families to thoroughly clean their homes from top to bottom. Doing this is said to clear out any back luck from the previous year and to ready the house to accept good luck for the coming year.
All cleaning must be finished before New Year's Day so there is no chance of accidentally throwing out the good fortune of the new year. "Before New Year's Day you want to buy new clothes or cut your hair" in order to have a fresh start, says Ng. Wearing black is not allowed due to its association with death, however, wearing red is encouraged as the color is associated with warding off bad spirits.
2. Decorate the house: Another popular custom is to hang up signs and posters on doors and windows with the Chinese word fu written on them, which translates to luck and happiness. Buying flowers for the home is also commonplace since they symbolize the coming of spring and a new beginning. In Chinese neighborhoods, special lunar New Year flower markets often sprout up during the days prior to the New Year.
3. Eat with your family: On the eve of the Chinese New Year it is customary to visit with relatives and partake in a large dinner where a number of specific foods are served.
"Typically families do eight or nine dishes because they are lucky numbers," says Grace Young, author of The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. "The Chinese word for eight is baat [in Cantonese], which rhymes with faat, the word for prosperity." The word for nine means "long-lasting."
"A lot of the foods are very symbolic," explains Ng. Some popular foods include: dumplings ("because they look like golden nuggets" says Ng), oranges ("because they are perfectly round, symbolizing completeness and wholeness"), and long noodles ("served to symbolize long life").
Sticky rice cakes and sweets are also served and are tied to a story about the Kitchen God-- a Santa Claus-like figure who reports to the Jade Emperor in heaven on whether families have been good or bad through the course of the year. According to legend, when families serve the Kitchen God sticky, delicious foods, his mouth gets stuck together and therefore he cannot report any bad things about the family to the Jade Emperor.
4. Give good luck gifts: It is a traditional practice for adults to give children little red envelopes--hong bao in Mandarin or lai-see in Cantonese--filled with money in order to symbolize wealth and prosperity for the coming year. It is also common for elders to bestow red packets to unmarried members of the family. It is a sign of respect to bow three times in order to accept the hong bao. Envelopes are not to be opened until the recipient has left the home of the giver.
5. Make lanterns: The New Year's festivities come to an end on the fifteenth day of the new year, which is celebrated by the Lantern Festival. According to the book Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and the Children's Museum, Boston, the Lantern Festival honors the first full moon of the year and represents the coming of springtime.
Families will light lanterns, which symbolize the brightness of spring, and hang them on walls around the house, or on poles to be carried in lantern parades. Last year, we all went to a Chinese New Year festival on campus, where Emma was given a pink lantern, which she hangs over her bed for good dreams.
Another fun thing about the Chinese New Years is that it begins a new animal sign. There are 12 animals that rotate through the years. We are each born in a certain "animal" year.
There are endless variations of the folklore story explaining how the order of the animals of the zodiac were chosen. Below is a popular telling of tale:
When it came time for the Jade Emperor in heaven to decide the order of the zodiac, he invited all the animals to participate in a race. The order of the zodiac would be decided by the order in which animals finished the race.
When the competition started, the ox was leading the pack, but the rat jumped on his back. Since the rat was so light and small, the ox did not realize that the rat was hitching a ride. As the ox approached the finish line, the rat leap off his back and was crowned as the first animal to complete the race.
After all the creatures finished the race, the order was finalized: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
The animal sign is similar to your horoscope. Here are the traits of our family animals. Do they sound like us?!?! ;D

The Rat
Years: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
Positive Character Traits: Charming and ambitious
Negative Character Traits: Short-tempered and sometimes sneaky
Most Compatible with: Dragon (Papa & Uncle Kurt), Monkey, Ox
The Horse
Years: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Positive Character Traits: Hardworking, cheerful, popular
Negative Character Traits: Rarely listens to advice, can be a chatterbox
Most Compatible with: Tigers (Uncle Brock), Dogs (Auntie Pickle, Baby Eli), Sheep (John, Emma)

John & Emma

The Goat (Ram or Sheep)
Years: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
Positive Character Traits: Elegant, artistic, compassionate
Negative Character Traits: First to complain about something, pessimistic
Most Compatible with: Rabbit, Pig, Horse (Heidi)
We actually agreed that they sound a LOT like us! Go check out your animal sign (my favorite site is : and see how you measure up!
Have a happy new year! Celebrate well! (I'd love to get new clothes...but the cleaning house from top to bottom....ehhhh) :D

♥ Heidi
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