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Monday, February 18, 2013

Chinese New Year 2013 is a Year of Snake

I had a good educational briefing by Mr Tye last week about the celebrated Chinese New Year (CNY) originated thousands of years ago by the chinese ancestors in the main land China. Important to note that CNY is not a religious celebration, rather, it is a yearly celebration by the all chinese race. Therefore, all chinese, despite of their religions background, Taosm, Confusionism, Buddhism, Christians, Islam etc are still celebrating a new year according to Lunar calendar year. Lunar calendar year is not a gregorian calender. Lunar calendar is similar or close to muslim calendar, Hijrah as it follow the monthly circle of the moon against the sun.


Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally ran from Chinese New Year's Day (past midnight of the beginning of 1st day) itself, the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, making the festival the longest in the Chinese calendar. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the "Lunar New Year".


The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities as well as ancestors. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, and also in Chinatowns elsewhere. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors.


Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. Often, the evening preceding Chinese New Year's Day is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of "good fortune" or "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity." Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. Debts of previous year were paid and collected for them to have a blessful year throughout.

 
In the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, a date between January 21 and February 20. In the Chinese calendar, winter solstice must occur in the 11th month, which means that Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (rarely the third if an intercalary month intervenes). In traditional Chinese Culture, lichun is a solar term marking the start of spring, which occurs about February 4.


The interesting part of the CNY month are:-
1st day - is for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth, officially beginning at midnight. It is a traditional practice to light fireworks, burn bamboo sticks and firecrackers and to make as much of a din as possible to chase off the evil spirits as encapsulated by nian of which the term guo-nian was derived. All the prayers must start after midnight and reunion diner may start before or after that. Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time to honor one's elders and families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. It is beliefed that children must stay up and pray in order for their parents to have a longevity life. In Malaysia, during daytime on the 1st day, a visit to the temples and/or religious home is a must.
 
Some families may invite a lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Chinese New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises. Members of the family who are married also give red packets containing cash known as lai see or angpow, a form of blessings and to suppress the aging and challenges associated with the coming year, to junior members of the family, mostly children and teenagers. Business managers also give bonuses through red packets to employees for good luck, smooth-sailing, good health and wealth.



2nd day - known as kāinián ("beginning of the year"), was when married daughters visited their birth parents, relatives and close friends. (Traditionally, married daughters didn't have the opportunity to visit their birth families frequently as they are obliged to stay with the in-laws.) During the days of imperial China, "beggars and other unemployed people circulated from family to family, carrying a picture [of the God of Wealth] shouting, "Cai Shen dao!" [The God of Wealth has come!]." Householders would respond with "lucky money" to reward the messengers. Business people of the Cantonese dialect group will hold a 'Hoi Nin' prayer to start their business on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year so they will be blessed with good luck and prosperity in their business for the year.
 

3rd day - is known as Chìkǒu, directly translated as "red mouth". Chìkǒu is also called Chìgǒurì or "Chìgǒu's Day". Chìgǒu, literally "red dog", is an epithet of "the God of Blazing Wrath". Rural villagers continue the tradition of burning paper offerings over trash fires. It is considered an unlucky day to have guests or go visiting. Hakka villagers in rural Hong Kong in the 1960s called it the Day of the Poor Devil and believed everyone should stay at home. This is also considered a propitious day to visit the temple of the God of Wealth and have one's future told.
 
4th day - In those communities that celebrate Chinese New Year for only two or three days, the fourth day is when corporate "spring dinners" kick off and business returns to normal.
 
5th day - It is the God of Wealth's birthday. In northern China, people eat jiǎozi, or dumplings, on the morning of pòwǔ. In Taiwan, businesses traditionally re-open on the next day (the 6th day), accompanied by firecrackers. It is also common in China that on the 5th day people will shoot off firecrackers to get Guan Yu's attention, thus ensuring his favor and good fortune for the new year.
 
7th day - traditionally known as Rénrì, the common man's birthday, is the day when everyone grows one year older. In Malaysia and Singapore, the day was celebrated by tossing raw fish salad called "Yeesang" eaten for continued wealth and prosperity. For many Chinese Buddhists, this is another day to avoid meat, the seventh day commemorating the birth of Sakra, lord of the devas in Buddhist cosmology who is analogous to the Jade Emperor.
 

8th day - Another family dinner is held to celebrate the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven. People normally return to work by the eighth day. Store owners will host a lunch/dinner with their employees, thanking their employees for the work they have done for the whole year. Approaching 12 midnight on this day, Hokkien people prepare for a Jade Emperor ritual (Bai Ti Gong) during which incense is burnt and food offerings made to the Jade Emperor and also to Zao Jun, the Kitchen God who reports on each family to the Jade Emperor. Some people will hold a ritual prayer at after midnight on the eighth day. In Malaysia, especially, people light fireworks, often more than on the first day at the midnight of 8th day to welcome the 9th day. Chinese community in many area will burn the firecrackers after midnight till 4pm. This practice of Bai Ti Gong can also be seen in Singapore.


9th day - is a day for Chinese to offer prayers to the Jade Emperor of Heaven (Tiāngōng) in the Daoist Pantheon. The ninth day is traditionally the birthday of the Jade Emperor. This day, called Ti Kong Dan, Tiangong Sheng or Pai Ti Kong, is especially important to Hokkiens, even more important than the first day of the Chinese New Year. Come midnight of the eighth day of the new year, Hokkiens will offer thanks to the Emperor of Heaven. A prominent requisite offering is sugarcane. Legend holds that the Hokkien were spared from a massacre by Japanese pirates by hiding in a sugarcane plantation during the eighth and ninth days of the Chinese New Year, coinciding with the Jade Emperor's birthday. Since "sugarcane" is a near homonym to "thank you" in the Hokkien dialect, Hokkiens offer sugarcane on the eve of his birthday, symbolic of their gratitude. In the morning of this birthday, Taiwanese households set up an altar table with 3 layers: one top (containing offertories of six vegetables, noodles, fruits, cakes, tangyuan, vegetable bowls, and unripe betel, all decorated with paper lanterns) and two lower levels (containing the five sacrifices and wines) to honor the deities below the Jade Emperor. The household then kneels three times and kowtows nine times to pay obeisance and wish him a long life. Incense, tea, fruit, vegetarian food or roast pig, and gold paper is served as a customary protocol for paying respect to an honored person.

 
10th day - The Jade Emperor's party is also celebrated on this day
13th day - people will eat pure vegetarian food to clean out their stomach due to consuming too much food over the preceding two weeks. The day is dedicated to the General Guan Yu, also known as the Chinese God of War. Guan Yu was born in the Han dynasty and is considered the greatest general in Chinese history. He represents loyalty, strength, truth, and justice. According to history, he was tricked by the enemy and was beheaded. Almost every organization and business in China will pray to Guan Yu on this day. Before his life ended, Guan Yu had won over one hundred battles and that is a goal that all businesses in China want to accomplish. In a way, people look at him as the God of Wealth or the God of Success.
15th day - The fifteenth day of the new year is celebrated as Yuanxiao Festival/Yuánxiāojié, aka Shangyuan Festival/Shàngyuánjié) or the Lantern Festival (otherwise known as Chap Goh Mei). Rice dumplings tangyuan, a sweet glutinous rice ball brewed in a soup, are eaten this day. Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home. This day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival, and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns. This day often marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.
 
In Malaysia and Singapore, this day is celebrated by individuals seeking for a love partner, a different version of Valentine's Day. Normally, single women would write their contact number on mandarin oranges and throw it in a river or a lake while single men would collect them and eat the oranges. The taste is an indication of their possible love: sweet represents a good fate while sour represents a bad fate.
 
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