As the year changes from the year of the independent and spirited horse to the year of the gentle and calm sheep people begin their preparations to celebrate the coming of the new year.
Before the first day of the celebrations, homes are cleaned thoroughly and decorated for the days to come. Pictures on walls are hung up, poetry on doors and red lanterns too.
The first three days of Chinese New Year are the most important. The first day is the New Year, is the first day of the first lunar month. People have reunion dinners with families. It is a time when hundreds of millions of people travel home to be with their families and is said to be the biggest annual human migration. On this day good food is eaten and red envelopes are given to children. Traditionally there are certain foods that are eaten. The must foods eaten are:
Fish – a sign of surplus – may you always have more than you need.
Dumplings – Legend has it that the more dumplings you eat for Chinese New Year the more money you can make in the coming year
Spring Rolls – As they look like gold – a ton of gold — a wish for prosperity
Glutinous rice cakes – getting higher year by year – this could signify a child’s height, rise in business, success, better grades, promotions etc.
Sweet rice balls – family reunions
Longevity noodles – these are longer than normal noodles that are uncut – wish for longevity
Tangerines and oranges – At this time of the year often you will see plants with little oranges all over the place. Eating or displaying tangerines is believed to bring good luck and fortune. This is because the writing and pronunciation of orange – cheng sounds the same as success.
Having spoken to several people I discovered that the first two days of the New Year are celebrated by going to families houses to eat and celebrate and give out the red envelopes. This is alternated between parents and in-laws homes. Other than the red packet, gifts that are taken are usually food items.
I also learnt that on the third day you do not visit homes of any friends or family for if you do the you will quarrel with them for the year to come. So on the third day people usually go out to parks, for hikes or to malls. Another tradition I heard about is that the house is not cleaned for the 3-4 days of the celebrations for if you do you are cleaning the money away from your home.
Fireworks are a must during this time to celebrate as well as to drive away the evil.
Usually all accounting is complete before the end of the year to start fresh for the coming year.
It is said that this year, the year of the sheep should be a peaceful year as that is what the animal depicts. Chinese New Year is celebrated when the new moon is closest to the beginning of spring, so soon after the weather changes and it starts to get warmer.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year, the year of the sheep, a year of health, prosperity and above all a year of world peace!
Watch this space for my next book, The Secret of the Golden Ball, which has many exciting adventures right here in Hong Kong and involves Chinese Astrology, and the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Kung Hei Fat Choy!