Traditions of Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year symbolizes renewal; a turning point in fortunes and lives on the whole.
As red is the predominant colour symbolizing luck for the Chinese, strips of red paper with ‘lucky’ characters inscribed on them are hung on walls or doors in most homes. Ang pows or 'lucky money’ are given in special red packets to the younger members of the community by
The Chinese moon calendar is divided into cycles of twelve years and is named after various animals. In order of sequence, the twelve animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Chinese New Year is ushered by the sign of these animals yearly. According to popular belief, individuals are born under the influence of the animal that controls
the year of their birth.
To the Chinese community, the most important festival celebrated is the Spring Festival, more commonly known as Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a new lunar year and falls on the first day of the ‘first moon’ in the lunar calendar. It is also the most important event of the entire Chinese calendar.
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Every year, there was Ching Ming (Ancestors' Grave Cleaning) in
April, Chung Chet in May (Chu Yuan- Dumplings Festival), Kui Chet
(Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) around August, Chung Chiu Chet, the
Mid-Autumn OR Moon-cake Festival in September. Then it is Koh Tung, the
Winter Solstice in December.
When the Winter Solstice was celebrated, with a steamed chicken on the
altar (chinese lettuce between its beak) and the sweetish fragrance of
rice wine poured over burnt paper offerings, and 'thong yen' or glutinous
rice balls eaten at night in sweetened ginger soup with pandan fragrance.
Before all that, to mark the coming of the New Year, the
north-easterly wind must first arrive at our doorsteps, blowing from
across the South China Sea. You will hear the wind when it comes, calling
out sometimes like the cry of a home-sick child on the Casuarina trees.
The climax of the Chinese New Year lasts only two or three
days including the New Year's Eve. But the whole New Year season extends from
the mid-twelfth month of previous year to the middle of the first month of the
new year. The month approaching the Chinese New Year is a good time for business,
will generousely buy presents, decoration material, food and
clothing. Transportation companies is eagerly
waiting for the swarms of travellers who rush back home for a family renunion from all parts of
Days before the New Year, each household is busy giving its house a thorough
cleaning, hoping to sweep away all the ill-fortune there may have been in the
family to make way for the wishful in-coming good luck. People also give their
doors and window-panes a new paint, usually in red color. They decorate the
doors and windows with the popular theme of
"happiness", "wealth", "logevity" and "satisfactory marriage with more
children". Paintings of the same theme are put up in the house on top of the
newly mounted wall paper. In the old days, various kinds of food are tributed
at the alta of ancestors.
New Year eve is carefully observed. Supper is a family feast with
all members getting together. One of the most popular course is jiaozi,
dumplings boiled in water. "Jiaozi" in Chinese literally mean "sleep together
and have sons", a long-lost good wish for a family. After dinner, it is time
for the whole family to sit up for the night while having fun playing cards or
board games or watching TV programs dedicated to the ocassion. Every light is
supposed to be kept on the whole night. At midnight, the whole sky will be lit
up by fireworks and firecrackers make everywhere seem like a war zone.
People's excitement reach its zenith.
Early next morning, children greet their parents and receive their
presents in terms of cash wrapped up in red paper packages. Then,
the family start out to say greetings from door to door, first their relatives
and then their neighbors. It is a great time for reconciliation. The air is permeated with
warmth and friendliness. During and several days following the New Year's day,
friends visit each other and exchange of gifs. The New
Year atmosphere is brought to an anti-climax fifteen days away where the
Festival of Lanterns sets in. It is an occasion of lantern shows and folk
dances everywhere. One typical food is the Tang Yuan, another kind of
dumplings made of sweet rice rolled into balls and stuffed with either sweet
or spicy fillings.
The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season and afterwards life
becomes daily routines once again. This description is based upon the
recollection of my own experience. Customs of observing the New Year vary from
place to place yet the spirit
underlying the diverse celebrations of the Chinese New Year is the same: a
sincere wish of peace and happiness for the family members and friends.