CHINESE NEW YEAR
The days before New Year's Festivals, Chinese families clean and tidy their houses in depth. They believe that doing so they sweep bad luck away from their homes as well as foster good luck to come for the New Year to start. They put brooms and dustpans away during the first day of the New Year so that the new luck that has just arrived can't be swept away. They usually paint Windows in red and decorate doors.
New clothes and shoes are also bought as a symbol of a new beginning. They must have a haircut before the beginning of the New Year. Having a haircut during the celebrations means bad luck.
Before the “reunion dinner” (Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner in other cultures) Chinese families pray a thanksgiving prayer to invoke good luck, good health and prosperity for the incoming year and they also remember their ancestors.
After dinner they let off bangers and firecrackers to frighten bad spirits. At the same time they have their doors of houses closed until the next morning. This is the so called “open the door of fortune” ritual. (Simplified Chinese: : 开财门; Traditional Chinese: 開財門, pinyin: kāicáimén)
First day 第一天
It officially begins at midnight. On this day Chinese people welcome the gods of Heaven and Earth. They throw firecrackers to chase away bad spirits such as Nian. Some people believe that cooking on that day brings bad luck so they don't use cooks and knives that day and all the food is prepared on the previous days.
The most important thing to do on this day is to honor old people. They visit the oldest members of the family: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents…..
Some families hire “lion dance” as a symbolic ritual to mark the beginning of the New Year as well as to shoo bad spirits. Married people also give red envelops or boxes to unmarried people known as tao hongbao (Chinese: 討紅包; pinyin: tǎo Hongbao) or yao Lishi (Chinese: 要利是, pinyin: yào lì shì) and in the southern China the Lai ve(Chinese: 逗利是, pinyin: Dou lì shì). They also give these red envelops to children. Shop owners and businessmen also give some extra-money to their employees in red envelops as a symbol of good luck, health and wealth.
Second day 第二天
The second day of the Chinese New Year is known as “the beginning of the year”(simplified Chinese: 开年, Traditional Chinese: 開年, pinyin: kāinián). Traditionally married women will visit and pay respect to their birth parents and close relatives.
Incense is burnt on the ancestors' graves as part of the ritual of praying and offering.
During the period of the Imperial China beggars and other unemployed people went from house to house carrying an image of the God of Wealth while they shouted “Cai Shen dao” ¡The God of Wealth has arrived! The head of the families gave them some “money of fortune” to reward the messengers.
Businessmen from Canton pray to “Hoy Nin” so that their businesses will be blessed with good luck and prosperity in the upcoming year.
It is the birthday of all dogs.
Thyrd daya 第三天
It is known as the “red mouth” (Chinese: 赤口; pinyin: Chìkǒu). Chikou is also called “day of Chigou” (Chinese: 赤狗日, pinyin: Chìgǒurì or day of Chigou), literally means “red dog” which is an epithet of “God of the burning wrath”(Chinese: 熛怒之神, pinyin: Biao Nu zhī shén).
In rural areas of Hong Kong people believe that the devil of poverty roams the streets this day and hence everybody should stay in their houses to avoid meeting him. Having visitors or social relationships on this day is believed to be a sign of bad luck. For this reason this day is considered to be as an unhappy day.
Villagers continue with the tradition of burning paper offerings in bonfires of rubbish.
Fourth day 第四天
In some parts of China New Year Festivals last only four days, so on this day many business dinners are held before the shops and businesses open again.
Fifth day 初五
This day is regarded as the birthday of God of Wealth. The morning of this day is known as powu “broken five” (Chinese: 破五, pinyin: pòwǔ), it is when the people eat jiaozi or dumplings.
Is is also popular to throw firecrackers to honor Guan Yu.
José L. MELERO
Aritcles related to the Chinese New Year.
Sixth day 初六
All businesses will be reopened on this day as they throw firecrackers.
Seventh day 初七
The seventh day of the first lunar month is named Renri人日 (The birthday of ordinary or common men). On this day everybody on earth gets a year older.
People eat 鱼生 yúshēng, of fish salad known as The Mix of Prosperity. El鱼 yú of fish is a homophone of余 of prosperity; hence people mix up 鱼生 yúshēng with its homophone 余升 yúshēng, that means increase in abundance. It has slices of raw fish (usually salmon), pieces of vegetables and a mixture of sauces and typical spices of Southeast Asia. If you eat this dish you will have abundance, prosperity and vigor all through the year.
On this day Buddhists don't eat meat because they commemorate the birth of Sakra, God of the devas in the Buddhist cosmology and akin to the emperor of Jade.
Eighth day 初八
On the eighth day people have another family reunion dinner to celebrate the day before the Emperor of Jade was born.
The shop owners will invite to dinner to all their employees to thank them for the work they did during the year.
At midnight people get ready for “the ritual of the Emperor of Jade”. They burn incense and give food offerings to the emperor and to Zao Jun, God of he Kitchen who informs the emperor of Jade about each family.
Some people will pray after midnight.
Firecrackers are thrown.
Ninth day 初九
It is the birthday of the emperor of Jade and people pray to him.
This day is highly important for the Hokkiens community, even more important than the first day of the Chinese New Year. It is named God “Ti Kong Dan” Festival. (Hokkien: 天公诞 Thiⁿ-kong Tan).
At midnight the Hokkiens thank the Emperor of Heaven. One of the most important offerings is sugar cane. According to a legend during the eighth and ninth day of the Chinese New Year, the Hokkien villagers hid in a sugar cane plantation when they were being attacked by Japanese pirates. This saved them from being massacred. The “sugar cane” (Hokkien: 甘蔗kam-chia) is a homonymous of “ thanks” (Hokkien: 感谢Kam-SIA) in the Hokkien dialect.
At any time from midnight to seven in the morning, Taiwanese people set an altar on a table with three different levels. The upper part ,which is decorated with paper lanters, (Simplified Chinese: 六斋, Traditional Chinese: 六齋, pinyin: liù Zhai) has six different types of vegetable offerings, noodles, fruit, cakes, Tangyuan - glutinous rice flour-, bolws of vegetables and green betel. The other two levels, which contain the five sacrifices and wine, are used to honor the Gods that are below the Emperor of Jade. People knee three times and then kowtow nine times (knee and touch the floor with the forehead) to honor and wish him a long life.
Incense, tea, fruit, vegetarian food or roasted pork and golden paper is served to show respect to the person who is being honored.
Tenth, eleventh and twelveth day 初十- 初十二
From the tenth to the twelfth day there is more feasting with friends and family to celebrate the Emperor of Jade's birthday.
Thirteenth day 初十三
A time to eat only vegetarian food. After two weeks of eating so much rich food, people believe that vegetarian food will cleanse their digestive systems.
This day is devoted to the General Guan Yu (關羽 Traditional Chinese, 关羽 Simplified Chinese) o Guan Yu (in mandarin, pinyin), but he is known as Kuan Kung (關公 Traditional Chinese, 关公 Simplified Chinese) o Guan Gong (in mandarin, pinyin),also known as the Chinese God of the War. Guan Yu was bor in the Han dynasty and he is known as the greatest general in the Chinese history. According to history he was tricked and he was beheaded by an enemy.
Almost all Chinese organizations and businesses will pray to Guan Yu on this day. Before his death, he had won more than a hundred battles. This is the aim that most businesses would like to achieve. At this respect this general is seen as the God of Wealth and Success.
Fourteenth day 初十四
Preparations will be made for the Lantern Festival.
Fifteenth day 年/初十五
The first full moon of the year will be seen this night. People burn candles outside their houses to ease the lost spirits finding their home.
Today, people celebrate the Torch Festival Yuanxiao(simplified Chinese: 元宵节, Traditional Chinese: 元宵節, pinyin: Yuánxiāojié),also known as Lantern Festival "Shangyuan" (simplified Chinese: 上元节 , Traditional Chinese: 上元節 , pinyin: Shàngyuánjié) or “dark fifteen” Cap Goh Mei Chinese: 十五暝 , pinyin: Shíwǔmíng.
At night, thousands of small lanterns made of paper, silk or pieces of glass (the most popular used to be round and red), are lit in all parts of China to celebrate the end of all the celebrations. Streets, houses and shops, which are full of small and big paper lanterns, will be the scene where many performances and parades will take place all through the night.
Children go out to the streets with small lanterns and together with their relatives they go to the temples to wish peace, happiness and prosperity. They also write riddles on the lanterns and the person who guesses it right will own the lantern.
At the end of the celebrations people write their wishes on flying lanterns which symbolize that the past that has gone away and the arrival of an inspiring future.
In China, Malaysia and Singapore, this day is celebrated only by those people looking for a partner or a spouse. This day is similar to our Saint Valentine's Day. Single women wrote on mandarins the way men could contact with them, then they threw the mandarins into a river or lake and only men could pick them up to eat them. The taste of the mandarins was a signal of a possible new love: sweet means good luck for the couple whereas sour taste means a bad fate.
There are several legends that tell about the origins of the New Year Day´s celebrations. One of them tells of the Jade Emperor and the crane that came to the Earth from the paradise. The crane was really beautiful, the favorite crane of the Emperor who governs the paradise. When the crane landed on the Earth, some villagers who were hunting killed her.
The Emperor´s wrath was so that he sent a storm of fire to destroy the village and kill all the villagers on the 15th day of the first lunar month. However, the Emperor´s daughter moved by her compassion towards the innocent villagers warned them about her father´s plans. This news caused a great desperation among the villagers who did not know how to escape from the Emperor´s wrath. A wise old man of a near village heard about the stir. He thought for a long time about how to solve the problem and he finally advised the villagers to hold red lanterns on their houses, set bonfires in the streets and light firecrackers during the 14th, 15th and 16th days of the New Lunar Year.
The villagers followed his advice and they filled the streets with lanterns, fires and explosions. On the 15th day the Emperor sent his troops to destroy the village, but when they arrived they saw that the village was already on fire so they turned back to inform the Emperor. Satisfied with the news, the Emperor decided not to send the fire storm as the village was already set on fire. Since that day, the people decided to celebrate the 15th day walking along the streets with lanterns, lighting firecrackers and fireworks.
This day marks the end of the Chinese New Year's celebrations.
During all this period of time, any time is perfect for lighting firecrackers and fireworks so as to shoo bad luck. Lion dances "Wu Shi 舞狮" and dragon dances "Wu Long舞龙" are also held since ancient times as Chinese people believe that they serve to chase away the bad spirits.