In a few days the Chinese will be celebrating the Chinese New Year. They will welcome the Year of the Wood Horse and plans for another grand celebration of the Chinese New Year’s Eve is afoot in every place where there are Chinese communities.
Chinese New Year. It is also called the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year. It is a traditional Chinese festival that is celebrated as a national holiday in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, Singapore, Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It is a celebration that carries so many meanings. It carries many traditions and beliefs, all to give thanks for the bounty of the past year and renewal and welcoming of blessings for the coming year. According to Chinese astrology, 2014 is the Year of the Wood Horse. The best of the holiday’s many events is on New Year’s Eve, which fall on the 30th of the January. New Year’s Day is on the 31st of January while the Year of the Horse takes effect on the 4th of February.
The family gathers for the New Year’s Eve dinner, called the Reunion Dinner or Nian Ye Fan in Chinese. There will usually be a large spread of Chinese dishes that includes pork, whole chicken (including head and feet), and fish, which symbolizes abundance and togetherness. The Eight Treasure Rice will be served as well for dessert. The fish (yu) dish will not be totally consumed and will be displayed overnight. The tradition comes from the Chinese phrase for “every year there is fish or leftover,” which translates to nián nián yǒu yú. “Fat choy” or black hair-like (moss) algae is also served. In Chinese it is called “fǎ cài,” which is very similar in pronunciation to fā cái that means prosperity. In Northern China dumplings are included in the Reunion dinner spread.
Red envelopes containing money will be distributed by the elders and married family members to relatives that are not yet working, especially the children. Just like in the West, the Chinese believe it is lucky to give than to receive. So consider yourself lucky if you receive a red packet from your Chinese friend. In Mandarin, the red envelope is called Hóng Bāo. It is Ang Pao in the Hokkien and Min Nan languages. The Cantonese call it Lai See. The Vietnamese call the red packet Lì Xì and the Koreans call it Sae Bae Don. The money inside the red packet should be in even numbers, usually 88 or 168, considered very lucky numbers by the Chinese.
Now that you know a bit about the Chinese New Year, let us greet our Chinese friends a Happy Chinese New Year! In Mandarin it is Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year). In Hokkien and Teochew (Taiwan and Southeast Asia) you say Xing Ni Ju Yi. The Mandarin phrase, Gong Xi Fa Cai means Congratulations, may you be prosperous! It is the same in meaning as the Cantonese greeting, Gong Hey Fat Choy (used in Macau and Hong Kong).
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