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Happy New Year
Gong Xi Fa Cai
(Cantonese pronunciation "Gung Hay Fat Choy or Kung Hei Fat Choi.")
Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Also translated as kung-hsi fa-tsai
"Congratulations and prosperity"
"Wishing You Prosperity and Wealth".
The Lunar New Year Festival is the
most significant holiday for Asian people around the world, regardless
of the origin of their ancestors.
CelebrationLunar New Year celebration starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. Most of the celebrating takes place on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (day 1), and is traditionally a time for family, reunion and rejoicing.
The presence of the ancestors is acknowledged on New Year's Eve with a dinner arranged for them at the family banquet table. The spirits of the ancestors, together with the living, celebrate the onset of the New Year as one great community. The communal feast called "surrounding the stove" or weilu. It symbolizes family unity and honors the past and present generations. It is called teen nien fan (in Cantonese) and it refers to the Chinese reunion dinner.
On New Years day itself is for gift giving (see Gifts below)
The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law.
A lion dance is also popular and may be held anytime during the 15 day celebration.
The New Year season extends from the mid-twelfth month of the previous year to the middle of the first month of the new year.
A month before the New Year is a good time for business. People buy presents, decoration material, food, and clothing
The use of firecracker's and fireworks on new year eve is based on the ancient Chinese belief that humans may be devoured by the "Nian" animal spirit around this time of the year. Thunder frightens off the spirit, and so people use firecracker's to simulate this sound.
In addition, red-paper couplets are pasted on doors and torches are lit, because Nien is said to fear the color red, the light of fire, and loud noises. Early the next morning, as feelings of triumph and renewal fill the air at successfully keeping Nien away for another year, the most popular greeting heard is kung-hsi (gong si) ®¥3ß, or "congratulations."
There is a spiritual aspect to the celebration, and all of Taiwan's temples are usually very busy during this time of year as large numbers of people crowd into them with elevated incense sticks to pray for good luck. Indeed, some of the major temples close their main gates before midnight on Chinese New Year's Eve as noisy and expectant crowds gather outside. At the stroke of midnight, the doors are thrown wide open and people surge forward in an attempt to be the first to place their incense sticks into the censer, as another long-standing tradition states that the first person to do so will be blessed with good luck throughout the coming year.
Chinese people consider themselves descendents of dragon, which is in fact, a fictitious animal combining some features of a deer, fish, tiger, lion, horse, ox, donkey, snake and vulture. The divine artificial animal is always associated with clouds, thunderbolts and rainfalls. It can walk on the land, swim in the sea and fly in the air and is the deity of wind and rain. Chinese people believe it is mascot and embodiment of power, dignity, luck, strength and success. Chinese emperors proclaimed they were incarnations of the real dragons to assure their superior authority.
The Lion Dance was originally used for worship and to pray for rain.
In Chinese Customs And Taboos, a book published by Penerbit Fajar Bakti Sdn Bhd, author Ann Wan Seng says that "when eating fish during Lunar New Year, the fish bone must remain intact. It is believed that if the fish bone is broken, the diners' luck and blessings will break, too."
Ann confirms the fishermen's superstition about eating fish: that the flesh on the underside must not be eaten or the fishing vessel may keel over and sink!
Cleaning and Washing hair
For the same reason, washing hair is avoided on the first and last day of the New Year.
In the early days, having a chicken for a meal was an honour. Chicken was only served on grand occasions and festivals. And if the employer wanted to fire a worker, he could send a strong message by the way he positioned the chicken head.
"If the chicken head faced the worker, he would know that trouble was brewing," says Shek.
"And if the boss passed him the chicken head, he would know that after finishing the meal, he must look for another job.
"Therefore, the chicken dish was called mo ching kai or unsympathetic chicken as it was used as a means to dismiss an employee.
See: www.gio.gov.tw/taiwan-website and www.educ.uvic.ca/faculty/mroth/438/CHINA/chinese_new_year.html
The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time.
Chinese legend states that thousands of years ago, Buddha summoned all the animals in the kingdom. Only twelve animals answered his call. As a reward, Buddha endowed each animal with a year of its own in the order of arrival. From then on, each year of the Chinese calendar bore the characteristics of the animal of that name.
A cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore is that horoscopes have developed around the animal signs, much like monthly horoscopes in the West have been developed for the different moon signs, Pisces, Aries, etc. For example, a Chinese horoscope may predict that a person born in the Year of the Horse would be, "cheerful, popular, and loves to compliment others". These horoscopes are amusing, but not regarded seriously by most people.