Happy Chinese New Year!

To everyone that celebrates the Chinese New Year... 
Happy Chinese New Year! 
May the year of the Tiger brings you health and happiness!

As always, home is great during Chinese New Year, with many things that remained pleasantly unchanged. The Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first day of the lunar calendar and fell on Valentine's Day this year. It lasted for 15 days.

I just realised that in Singapore, they used the (politically?) correct term “Lunar New Year”, which I believe is to dissociate it with the Chinese and to generalise it as the beginning of the lunar calendar. I find that quite unfortunate as the new year celebration that marked the first day of the lunar calendar is a very “Chinese” celebration around this region. In China, it is called the Spring Festival as it marked the beginning of Spring. Obviously, in countries like Malaysia and Singapore where there are not seasons, we can't really call it the Spring Festival.

Regardless of what we call it, it is still a grand celebration of the New Year by Chinese everywhere in the world. There are many traditions associated with the celebration that I would not be able to write about all of them here, but here are some of the more memorable traditions that I have come to love and enjoy during the first day of the new year. As a caveat, these are all from my memory and tradition that I have been practicing and may be different from the traditions elsewhere!

The day(s) before the first day
  • Spring cleaning the house - Well, I don’t really enjoy this, but it is an important tradition. It is to sweep away all bad luck. We are not supposed to sweep the floor or throw away rubbish on the first day, so that luck are not swept away.
  • Hanging red cloth over the door and decorating the house with everything red - Red is an important colour during the celebration. Bright coloured flowers and plants would also be used to decorate the house. Chrysanthemum (below), that symbolises longevity, is one of the many flowers used to decorate the house.
  • Buying fruits (especially oranges and pineapples) and coiling strips of red papers around them for praying to deities at midnight.
  • Reunion dinner on New Year's eve - This is one of the most important dinner for all families and everyone will try to be home to attend the dinner.

At the stroke of midnight
  • Praying to deities including God of Heaven, God of Prosperity etc. These may be done before the stroke of midnight at the exact right and prosperous timing according to the lunar calendar. (The lunar calendar is split into various sections throughout the day where there would be auspicious time and bad times to do various activities! You can view this site, but I am not sure if it follows the lunar calendar)
  • Lighting and playing with firecrackers and fireworks – Originally, the loud noise of the firecrackers were to scare away evil spirit called “nian” and has been traditionally continued by Chinese everywhere. These days, I think it is more for the atmosphere to signify the beginning of the New Year – not unlike the fireworks at the stroke of midnight on 1st of January. However, with the ban of firecrackers and fireworks in many countries, the tradition is slowly disappearing. There are still the odd firecrackers appearing once awhile.
  • On this night, it is believed that the later the children stayed awake, the longer the parents will live. 

On the first day
  • The morning started off with having something sweet for breakfast like "nian gao".
  • It is also tradition to wear new clothes on the first day to symbolise a new beginning.
  • Visiting extended families and relatives - Married relatives will give the younger generation red packets (ang pows) with money inside. 
  • For the whole of the first day, we will be vegetarian and abstain from killing animals. 
  • Lion dance - Many homes and offices would invite a lion dance troop to usher in the new year and to ward off bad spirits.
  • Gambling - While this is not a tradition per se, it is now an important new year activity. While I personally do not gamble with money, we do play various games like mahjong (below left) and cards (below right). 

There are many other traditions during this celebration all over the world. Regardless of where you are from and regardless of where you are celebrating, have a great one!

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