Chinese New Year: Welcome the Year of the Rooster!

Dragon held by people in sunny bustling downtown city

A Lunar New Year celebration in Australia, 2014. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SATURDAY, JANUARY 28: The Chinese Year of the Rooster starts today with a 15-day celebration that circles the globe.

The color red, which is considered auspicious and homophonous with the Chinese word for “prosperous,” dominates décor in nearly every event. The Spring Festival, as it is also termed, ushers in warmer weather and marks the time of great gatherings among family and friends. When the New Year approaches, it is customarily ushered in with a Reunion Dinner that is replete with symbolic foods. For two weeks, visits are made and hosted with family and friends, gifts are exchanged and merriment is par for the course.

This festival also represents the world’s greatest annual human migration. The Reuters news service reports on January 23: “People are joining in the world’s largest human migration and are leaving China’s capital by train, making their way home for family reunions during the Lunar New Year holidays. The 40-day travel frenzy surrounding the week-long Lunar New Year began on January 13, and will last until February 21. During this period, the estimated total volume of people traveling is expected to be almost 3 billion, up 2.2 percent from the previous year, according to China’s Transport Ministry.

CHINESE NEW YEAR:
FROM BUDDHA TO THE ROOSTER

Legend has it that when the Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited animals to a New Year’s celebration, only 12 showed up; these 12 animals were each rewarded with a year. Tradition has it that a person’s birth year indicates that he or she will possess the characteristics of the animal in reign during that year. In 2017, the 10th animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac—the rooster—will have supremacy.

A 15-DAY FESTIVAL:
DINNERS, RED ENVELOPES & LANTERNS

Unrivaled among Chinese holidays, the New Year begins weeks in advance with families cleaning and hanging paper cutouts in their homes, shopping for fish, meats and other specialty foods, and purchasing new clothing. Businesses pay off debts, gifts are distributed to business associates and everything is completed according to symbolism—for good luck, prosperity and health in the coming year.  In Buddhist and Taoist households, home altars and statues are cleaned.

On the eve of the New Year, a Reunion Dinner is shared with extended family members. Dumplings, meat dishes, fish and an assortment of hot and cold dishes are considered essential for the table. Traditionally, red envelopes filled with money or chocolate coins are given to children. Following dinner, some families visit a local temple.

For the next two weeks, feasts will be shared with family and friends, fireworks will fill the skies and parades with dragons and costumes will fill the streets. Friends and relatives frequently bring a Tray of Togetherness to the households they visit, as a token of thanks to the host. Through the New Year festivities, elders are honored and deities are paid homage, with all festivities being wrapped up with the Lantern Festival.

HOMEMADE CHINESE DINNER

If carryout isn’t your idea of an authentic Chinese experience, check out these sites for delicious New Year recipes:

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Categories: International Observances

Chinese New Year: Ring in the Year of the Monkey, China’s historic policy end

Multi-level mall decorated with big hanging Chinese symbols and red knotted ropes

Chinese New Year decorations at the atrium of Plaza Singapura, Orchard Road, in Singapore. Photo by Choo Yut Shing, courtesy of Flickr

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8: Roast pigs and noodles, red envelopes, lanterns and gold-embellished décor usher in the 2016 Chinese New Year of the Monkey, which sweeps the globe and sets Chinese celebrations in motion for more than two weeks.

A primary festival day actually occurs one day before the Chinese New Year’s Day, forming the ‘Excluded Evening’ on Feb. 7 that is reserved for family reunions. For many, an entire week is given off of work, for parties and visits, while some festivities carry on even longer. This year, London claims the biggest party outside of Asia, with additional large-scale revelries in Argentina, Australia and the United States.

WORLD’S LARGEST HUMAN MIGRATION

How big is this holiday? News wire services around the world, from Reuters to CNN, regularly describe this enormous holiday movement of families as “the world’s largest human migration.” In fact, Chinese railroad stations are designed with extra capacity to handle this vast homecoming. According to National Geographic:

Every winter, hundreds of millions of Chinese return home for the Spring Festival, the Chinese celebration of the Lunar New Year. The mass migration, known in Chinese as chunyun, accounted for … 3.62 billion trips made during the 40-day period surrounding the holiday in 2014.

CNN puts the number closer to 3.7 billion, counting trips by mass transit, by air and the use of personal vehicles, a common practice as the Chinese economy expands and more families own cars.

Yellow lighting on plate of Chinese dumplings with chopsticks on plate

Traditional Chinese dumplings. Photo by Sheilaz413, courtesy of Flickr

Who is the Monkey? People born in the Year of the Monkey are characterized as inquisitive, pioneering and mischievous, though clever in their careers and in wealth. People of the Monkey are sociable, self-assured and versatile, though their selfishness, arrogance and temper may hinder opportunities. But be careful! The Year of the Monkey is believed to be one of the most unlucky years of the Chinese calendar.

The color red, which is considered auspicious and homophonous with the Chinese word for “prosperous,” dominates décor during the Spring Festival, which ushers in warmer weather. When the New Year approaches, it is customarily ushered in with a Reunion Dinner, which is replete with symbolic foods. For two weeks, visits are made and hosted with family and friends.

Looking for an inexpensive, at-home recipe for Chinese New Year? Try these traditional Chinese wontons, or dumplings, that are made in Shanghai style and consumed for their alleged ability to promote wealth.

CHINESE NEW YEAR: BUDDHA, THE MONKEY & LANTERNS

Round paper lanterns, lit, with red writing in Chinese

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Legend has it that when the Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited animals to a New Year’s celebration, only 12 showed up; these 12 animals were each rewarded with a year. Tradition has it that a person’s birth year indicates that he or she will possess the characteristics of the animal in reign during that year.

Unparalleled among Chinese holidays, the New Year begins weeks in advance, with families cleaning and hanging paper cutouts in their homes, shopping for specialty foods and purchasing new clothing. Businesses pay off debts, gifts are distributed to business associates and everything is completed according to symbolism—for good luck, prosperity and health in the coming year. Channel News Asia reports that China’s central bank will be injecting 440 billion yuan (U.S. $67 billion) into the money market, providing liquidity in anticipation of the Lunar New Year financial demands.

In Buddhist and Taoist households, home altars and statues are cleaned.

NEW YEAR STAMPS: PEONIES & THE TWO-CHILD POLICY

Stamps from the China Post serve a dual purpose in 2016: Celebration of the Lunar New Year and recognition of the historic end to the country’s one-child policy. One of the new stamps, commissioned to 92-year-old Chinese artist Huang Yongyu, features a smiling, cartoon monkey being kissed by two baby monkeys. According to CNN, the China Post originally asked for a female monkey holding a baby, but the artist insisted on drawing two. As of January 1, 2016, the Chinese government formally ended its three-decade-long one-child policy, now permitting couples to have two children. All second babies born on or after Jan. 1, 2016 are considered legal.

In the United States, the Year of the Monkey stamp features reddish-orange peonies—the national Chinese flower—and a small, cut-paper image of a monkey. (Learn more from USPS.) In addition, gold ink in grass-style calligraphy shows the Chinese character for “monkey,” and “Lunar New Year” is written in gold up the right edge. The stamp’s issue date was Feb. 5.

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Categories: InterfaithInternational ObservancesNational Observances

Chinese New Year: Welcome the Year of the Goat

Oranges with green leaf tops on red black-print patterned paper with wooden reeds in back

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19: The Chinese Year of the Goat starts today with a 15-day celebration that circles the globe.

The color red, which is considered auspicious and homophonous with the Chinese word for “prosperous,” dominates décor in nearly every event. The Spring Festival, as it is also termed, ushers in warmer weather and marks the time of great gatherings among family and friends. When the New Year approaches, it is customarily ushered in with a Reunion Dinner that is replete with symbolic foods. For two weeks, visits are made and hosted with family and friends, gifts are exchanged and merriment is par for the course.

CHINESE NEW YEAR:
FROM BUDDHA TO THE GOAT

Legend has it that when the Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited animals to a New Year’s celebration, only 12 showed up; these 12 animals were each rewarded with a year. Tradition has it that a person’s birth year indicates that he or she will possess the characteristics of the animal in reign during that year. In 2015, the eighth animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac—the goat—will have supremacy. (Select watch brands have designed goat faces for this event, as Forbes reported.) The goat represents independence and an observant nature.

A 15-DAY FESTIVAL:
DINNERS, RED ENVELOPES & LANTERNS

Vase with branches with red envelopes hanging all over branches

Red envelopes hang from branches at the Pechanga Resort and Casino, in California. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Unrivaled among Chinese holidays, the New Year begins weeks in advance with families cleaning and hanging paper cutouts in their homes, shopping for fish, meats and other specialty foods, and purchasing new clothing. Businesses pay off debts, gifts are distributed to business associates and everything is completed according to symbolism—for good luck, prosperity and health in the coming year. (Wikipedia has details.) In Buddhist and Taoist households, home altars and statues are cleaned.

On the eve of the New Year, a Reunion Dinner is shared with extended family members. Dumplings, meat dishes, fish and an assortment of hot and cold dishes are considered essential for the table. (News alert: This year, Filipino-Chinese and Chinese Catholics in Manila were granted an episcopal jurisdiction exemption for Ash Wednesday fasting, in light of the eve of Chinese New Year.) Traditionally, red envelopes filled with money or chocolate coins are given to children. Following dinner, some families visit a local temple.

For the next two weeks, feasts will be shared with family and friends, fireworks will fill the skies and parades with dragons and costumes will fill the streets. (View colorful photos from CNN.) Friends and relatives frequently bring a Tray of Togetherness to the households they visit, as a token of thanks to the host. Through the New Year festivities, elders are honored and deities are paid homage, with all festivities being wrapped up with the Lantern Festival.

HOMEMADE CHINESE DINNER

If carryout isn’t your idea of an authentic Chinese experience, check out these sites for delicious New Year recipes:

IN THE NEWS:
DIGITAL RED ENVELOPES
AND SYDNEY’S GIGANTIC DISPLAY

A new approach to the red envelope tradition was unveiled last month, when the company Tencent announced the capability to send electronic red packets via smartphone. (CNBC has the story.) The service, which saw $2.9 million worth of transfers in its first 24 hours, allows users to send and receive digital envelopes of money.

In Australia, 90 warriors originally created for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are lighting up Sydney Harbour, as part of the city’s Chinese New Year Festival. The warriors, which are modeled after the terracotta warriors found in the tomb of China’s first Emperor in 1974, are lit in red, green, yellow and blue. (Read more from ABC.net.) Australia’s program is the largest Lunar New Year celebration outside of Asia.

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Categories: Faiths of East AsiaInternational Observances

Chinese New Year 2014: Zodiac horse rings in energy, intelligence, ability

Lighted horses line the streets at night for Chinese New Year celebrations

Horse lanterns ‘gallop’ toward prosperity and gold coins along Eu Tong Sen Street in Singapore, for Chinatown’s celebration of the Year of the Horse. Photo by Choo Yut Shing, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, JANUARY 31: Gong Hei Fat Choi! (or: Happy Chinese New Year!)

This week, families around the world string red lanterns, partake in good-luck cuisine and hold massive festivals for the 2014 Chinese New Year. From Sydney to London, from Las Vegas to Toronto, millions gather for events that are now anything but restricted to the Asian continent. Traditionally, 15 days of events commence for Chinese New Year, with everything from a myriad of foods to fireworks, dances, red envelopes, wishes for “good fortune” and so much more. In 2014, the world ushers in the Year of the Horse.

Did you know? During the 40 days surrounding Chinese New Year, workers return home and families gather, creating a period, chunyun, that comprises the world’s largest annual migration.

Chinese New Year is steeped in ancient traditions and stories. It’s said that the event started with a fight against a mythical beast called the Nian. Legend has it that Nian would arrive on the first day of the New Year to eat livestock, crops and villagers, until one day, the beast was frightened by a young child who was wearing red clothing. (Wikipedia has details.) The villagers realized that Nian was afraid of red, so they strung red lanterns and scrolls across doors and windows, wore red clothing and set off fireworks, to scare the monster. To this day, Chinese New Year is known for red lanterns, red clothing and the distribution of red envelopes, in belief that red not only scares away bad fortune but also brings luck, joy and a bright future.

The extensive Chinese New Year’s Eve reunion dinner, often enjoyed with family, is known as Nian Ye Fan and inludes dishes like fish, dumplings, hot pot and cake. Following Nian Ye Fan, some families will visit a nearby temple.

Did you know? The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning that it is dependent up on both the moon phase and the time of the solar year.

EARLY PREPARATIONS,
THE FESTIVAL OF LA
AND
15 DAYS OF EVENTS

Overhead view of Chinese New Year market selling red decorations, food and goods

Markets selling New Year goods are common in regions with large Chinese populations. Photo by Choo Yut Shing, courtesy of Flickr

Customs associated with Chinese New Year begin long before its commencement, with families thoroughly cleaning their homes to make way for good luck. On the eighth day prior to New Year, a traditional porridge is made in remembrance of the ancient La festival (the lunar month of La has been compared to the Christian Advent, during which participants consume little or no meat). People get a fresh haircut, businesses pay debts and small gifts are distributed to business associates and family, so that the New Year may begin clean, fresh and in the best of luck. (Find videos, interactive activities and more at History.com.)

Each day has its own specific customs: on the first day, deities are welcomed, elders are honored, red envelopes are distributed and a lion dance is often performed or watched; on the seventh day, everyone grows one year older; on the ninth day, prayers are offered to the Jade Emperor of Heaven. The fifteenth day closes the festivities, with a Lantern Festival, rice dumplings and candlelit windows.

Traditionally, both deities and ancestors are honored throughout Chinese New Year. (Check out 20 Chinese New Year facts at Huffington Post.)

In Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism: Buddhist and Taoist households often clean home altars and statues prior to the start of New Year; old altar decorations are taken down and burned, so that fresh décor can be put up. Taoists burn a paper effigy of Zao Jun the Kitchen God, so that he will report good things about the family to the Jade Emperor—and some bribe the deities with candies! Before the New Year’s Eve Reunion Dinner, Confucian families offer prayers of thanksgiving and recall their ancestors.

Recipes, origami and more: Steamed Chinese five-spice chicken buns and Beef with chilli plum sauce can be on your menu, with recipes for New Year at the Herald Sun. Sites like Food Network and Epicurious also offer full Chinese menus. Kids can find activities, origami instructions and 82 ways to celebrate Chinese New Year with help from Spoonful.com.

IN THE NEWS:
AMERICAN CITIES COMPETE
FOR CHINESE TOURISM DOLLARS

As surveys and polls reveal rapidly increasing numbers of wealthy Chinese tourists traveling to the U.S. for New Year celebrations, major cities are competing for profits. In efforts to avoid the overwhelming crowds at Chinese attractions, many of the newly wealthy are opting for an alternative—and spending plenty along the way, with more than $8.8 billion spent in the U.S. during Chinese New Year in 2012. (Fox News reported.) To accommodate their well-to-do Chinese clients, shops are staffing their stores with Mandarin-speaking associates; restaurants are offering traditional New Year dishes; and elite hotels, such as the Waldorf Astoria, are training their employees in Chinese cultural preferences.

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Categories: Faiths of East Asia