Happy Chinese New Year everyone!
There will be a lot of gambling, where the adults will usually play mahjong and the teenagers or kids will play clards. But every where you go, you see laughter, joy, happiness and even strangers are generally nice to you. I guess now that I am not in Malaysia anymore and am unable to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family and friends, the thing that I miss the most is spending time together with my family and friends. I guess, in most ways that is the only thing that makes a celebration a true celebration.
When I was young, obviously the food and the 'ang pows' were the most important thing. But now that I am older and wiser, those things are no longer as important. What's important now is spending time together with your loved ones and making every minute count. Because, honestly what's Chinese New Year without family and friends? It's just another day in the week.
So, we Chinese celebrate Chinese New Year, but not all of us know what each tradition means as we were brought up with it since young. Sadly most traditions have died as we are now more modern and think that traditions are just 'old wives tales'. Well, a lot of my friends ask me what Chinese New Year is and why is it so important, and even more - how is it celebrated?
Chinese New Year is the most important festival in the Chinese culture. It is celebrated on the new moon of the first month according to the lunar calendar (hence the name), and it is a time for family reunions and scrumptious feasts. Chinese New Year traditionally lasts from the first day to the 15th day of the New Year (which is Lantern Festival) Also, on the eve of the Chinese New Year is celebrated as the 'Eve of the Passing Year'. It's a tradition to go back to your hometown (in my case, it's where my grandparents live) and have a huge family dinner. We call this our 'annual family reunion'.
A lot of people probably don't know this (even me until about half an hour ago), but Chinese New Year has had influences from other cultures such as the Vietnamese, Koreans, Tibetans, Mongolians and the Bhutanese.
The Chinese New Year is a chance to leave the problems of the previous year behind. It is important to start the New Year fresh, and this means cleaning up the house and buying new clothes. Houses are decorated with red banners which have auspicious couplets written on them such as "happiness", "luck", "health & longevity" and "prosperity". These are hung around doorways and are intended to bring luck to the household for the coming year. (and the 'Prosperity God')
Red is a very important color in Chinese culture, symbolizing prosperity. Many people will wear red clothes during the New Year celebrations, and houses will have many red decorations such as Chinese knot work and lanterns. Some house will also go as far as have red lights and streamers decorated all around the house.
"Ang Pows" or red envelopes are given to children or to those who are unmarried. In those "ang pows" contain money which totals an even number, for an example $20. The number "4" in Chinese means "death" which is why an "ang pow" should never contain anything with "4", for an example $4, $40 or $400.
The reason why fireworks and crackers are so popular during this festive season, beside the fact that it's fun and beautiful, is also because loud noises scares of evil spirits. This is why for the entire 15 days, our sky is lighted up with beautiful fireworks displays.
Another tradition that my family follows is that during the Chinese New Year celebration, you are not allowed to clean the house, ie: sweep the floor. The reason behind this is that you're sweeping away the good luck that the God of Prosperity has brought in. This is why the day before Chinese New Year, the whole house is cleaned, scrubbed, mopped, wiped, swept and practically polished.
My grandmother also used to frown at us if we wore anything black during Chinese New Year. Black symbolises death and bad luck, that is why Chinese (especially children) don't wear anything black for any reunions.
Also, during Chinese New Year, we were told to never swear or curse and not to say anything like "I have no money", or "I am unlucky". This will attract bad spirits to you, and for the remaining of the year, you will have bad luck.
However you celebrate Chinese New Year and whatever traditions you and your family follows, I wish you a Happy Chinese New Year and may your New Year bring you good health, prosperity, happiness and love. To those who are travelling back to see your loved ones, drive safe. Just remember, Chinese New Year is all about being together with your family, friends and loved ones. The food/money/gambling is just a plus point. LOL. To those who are unable to spend Chinese New Year with their loved ones due to work, travelling or whatever other reasons, don't despair. Just play some Chinese New Year songs and cook yourself a homecook Chinese New Year dish you're used to.