“Kung Hei Fat Choi!” You’ll see it everywhere: on paper lanterns and streamers posted on walls and streetlamps, on buildings and billboards, on dishes and pastry boxes, flashing on television screens, and you’ll even hear it on the radio. The phrase, if you hadn’t guessed already, is Chinese for “Happy New Year!” and may be interchanged with either Gong Xi Fa Cai, or Xin Nian Kuai Le. Hearing any of these greetings, or just seeing the vibrant red paint the town, is enough to send excitement straight to your bones. Whether an enthusiast of the famous holiday or not, it’s hard to contain yourself from all the excitement that’s going about.
Being immersed in a world of red and mighty dragons, golden lions, and delicious food is gratification on a whole different level; a party of the spirit and the senses. The fifteen-day festival, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, kicks off on the second moon after the Winter Solstice, which is sometime around January 21st to February 18th. Each year is named for one of the twelve animals associated with the Chinese zodiac, the Dragon and the Rabbit being particularly significant. It is believed that the Chinese are descendants of the ancient mythical creature, whilst on the 15th day of January, the highly anticipated Festival of Lanterns is celebrated and lanterns of all sorts are made to take the form of a rabbit. Not only is it believed to bring good fortune, but it’s been said that the goddess Chang E brought a rabbit along with her when she traveled to the moon. From mythical creatures, to lantern festivals, and even rabbits on the moon, the Chinese New Year is a world famous tradition that has transcended time and space and remains as culturally relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. From mainland China, to the Chinatowns of other east-Asian countries, to even Paris, California, and San Francisco! Everybody knows how the Chinese bring it down.
Picture this: you’re cocooned in the finest silk top that’s vibrant red or deep crimson, what have you. You’re standing in the middle of old china town, and the air has a certain magic to it that you can’t place. It feels like a live wire, and down the street from where you’re standing a lion dance is taking place. You see a golden lion with the body of a dragon make its way down the street, a sign for prosperity and protection against the evil spirits. Around you, stalls are whipping up the best food you can imagine: dumplings of all sorts of fillings, from pork to shrimp to beef, even vegetables, rice cakes in all flavors and colors, fresh garlic and ginger steamed chicken, noodles cooked in all its glory and variation. The list goes on, your mouth is watering and there’s still so much we haven’t covered.
People are going about their day brimming with joy, a sense of peace and forgiveness about them. And then you remember that the New Year is all about being the better person, tying all lose ends, paying debts, forgiving others who have done you wrong, in order to make the most of the start of the new year. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. Just like the western counterpart, there’s a tradition that the Chinese follow as well, and it’s keeping in line with all the resolutions and goals they wish to accomplish at the start of the New Year and all throughout the year. Now if that doesn’t get you all geared up for the New Year, I don’t know what will. But that isn’t the best part. If you think you know everything there is to know about the popular Chinese affair, think again. Here are 10 amazing facts you didn’t know about the Chinese New Year:
Fact 1: Eating noodles on New Year’s Eve is believed to bring you a long and happy life. Don’t cut the noodle though! It’s bad luck if you do. No one wants a short noodle.
Fact 2: Chinese children are the happiest the morning after New Year’s Eve, as family members gift them with red envelopes containing presents in the monetary variety.
Fact 3: The traditional Chinese dumpling called “Jiaozi” in Chinese literally mean “sleep together and have sons”, a long-lost good wish for a family.
Fact 4: It is believed that if your heart is pure enough, you’ll be able to see the goddess Chang e and her rabbit on the moon to this day.
Fact 5: Riddles and poems are written on the lanterns during the festivities for the people’s entertainment.
Fact 6: Leaving all the lights on and the water running in your home during the late hours of the New Year is believed to bring in prosperity and wealth within your home.
Fact 7: Noise = Protection! The noisier it gets, the more evil you’re able to ward off. Cue the fireworks!
Fact 8: The Lunar New Year is celebrated as a Holiday that countries all over the world leave work and school for to celebrate.
Fact 9: Being severely upset on January 1st dictates that you’ll be sad the entire year, so plaster on your best smile until the day is done to be safe.
Fact 10: Washing your hair on New Year’s day is believed to be washing away your good luck, too. So be keen on taking that extra shower the night before the big day, and enjoy!