Chinese New Year – a fortnight of celebrations

My Malaysian friend posted on her facebook page why she loved Chinese New Year – “… it’s colourful, it’s loud…” when red is the dominate colour throughout the country, when the deafening firecrackers hiss into sky,  it’s not possible for any living soul not to know Chinese New Year is here.

If you are like me, awaken by chuffing fireworks in these early mornings, maybe you also want to know what all this is about?

New Year’s Eve:  Legend has it that there was an evil spirit called “XI” in ancient times, Xi was scared of loud sound, hence people played Imagedrums and set fireworks off to keep Xi away.  In Chinese, the new year eve is called “Chu Xi”, literally it means “get rid of Xi”.

Oh, remember to clean your house on this day, it is very important, why? You will soon find out…

Day 1: On this day, there is one thing you definitely should not touch – sweeper, else it would sweep away all the good luck and fortune, even bring in the star of bad luck. If due to certain circumstances you have to sweep floor, please do remember to sweep from outside to inside so as to keep the good fortune in your house. On this day, you are not supposed to throw away garbage either.

Day 2: Married daughters are expected to visit their maiden families on the second day of the new year, with husbands and children. One the way home, daughters should bring alongbiscuits and candies, for mothers to give away to neighbors – the sweet thoughts of the girl for her families and childhood friends.

Day 3: In rural China, this day is called “Chi Gou Ri”, it’s a day to worship ancestors. Mythology has it that Chi Gou was an ill-tempered god in charge of summer in the South, an encounterwith him usually was not pleasant at all, hence on the third day of the new year, it will be wise to stay at home with your family.

Also on this day, there is a series of DON’Ts – no floorsweeping, no fire making, no taking water from wells (by the way, the wells would have been sealed off since the new year’s eve anyway). Any family resides near a well will burn joss sticks in the morning, remove the red seal on the well, and lay vegetables around it, that’s why the third day of the new year isalso called “Kai Jing Ri” – a day of well re-opening. In some places, people collect dusts in dustpans, then leave the pan at the fork of a road, together with a broken sweeper – farewell to poverty.

Day 4: The day to welcome gods.  According to ancient mythology, all gods return to the world on the 4th day of the new year. However, as it is Fortune God’s birthday on the 5th day, to secure a good position in his good book, the welcome reception would start a day earlier, it is “receiving the fortune god”. Don’tbe surprised if you see sheep and carp on a sacrifice table – in Chinese language, “Yang” (sheep) also means good business, and “Yu” (fish) brings “abundance”.

Day 5: The chuffing fireworks continue from the night before, to celebrate birthday of Fortune God.

It is also a day to break poverties –  and lack of financial meansis not the only form of ill fate –  here’s the list of “big 5” to be broken on this day:

Poverty of intelligence

Poverty of knowledge

Poverty of inspiration

Poverty of finance

Poverty of friends

Firecrackers would be set off from inside the house to the outside – bye bye bad luck!

Ah – today, you finally can clean house again, thoroughly! And that garbage? Throw, throw, throw it away!!

On this day, you are supposed to get up early and work hard, the harder the better, although it may be slow, isn’t it the surest way to build up wealth?

Day 6: Day of Business Re-Opening. Be prepared for more firecrackers on the first day of going back to work!

Day 7: Legend goes goddess Nv Wa created human on the 7thday, no way fireworks will be missing on this occasion! By the way, just for your information, she created rooster, dog, pig, sheep, ox, and horse in the first 6 days.

Day 8: The day of Grain – if you are visiting friends and families in countryside, please don’t be offended if the host serves you half cooked food on this day – it’s a gentle reminder – not to waste food; it’s also a form of paying respect to hardworking farmers.

On this day, people will also worship stars by lighting up candles either at home or in temples. In the flickering candle lights, the elders would advise the youth no wrong doings even when alone, because the stars above are always watching…  say “Xing Xi”(good night stars) to your family after candles are out,  turn on the lights, and of course, set firecrackers off again!

Day 9: Another birthday celebration – the Jade Emperor, the boss of universe in Taoism mythology. What would you expect? Yes, more fireworks!

Temples will be busy again with devoted worshipers presenting sacrifices, burning incense, and praying for a peaceful year ahead.

Day 10: It is God of Stone’s birthday. No moving of anything made of stone on this day, i.e., a grinder, else it’ll bring a lean year to the growing crops.

Day 11: “Zi Xu Ri” – a day for father-in-laws to treat son-in-laws. After ten days of celebration, there must be plenty of food available in every household,  son-in-laws, come help!

Day 12: A day of choosing lanterns. Getting ready for the festive of lanterns, go find the one you like.  Works will begin in streets on this day to prepare for the lantern festive too.

Day 13: Lighting up lanterns. In countryside, married girls will invite mothers to meals, and in the evening, hays to be burnt and how embers glowed would disclose many puzzling questions, if you knew how to read…

Day 14: It is probably the least ceremonious day of the whole celebration, a day to chill and relax.

Day 15: The 15th day of the new year, Lantern Festival, full moon… this day marks the climax and also the end of the new year celebration. Streets are lit with bright, colourful lanterns, people go out with families and friends, appreciating the beautifully designed lanterns, visiting flower markets, and what’s more? Fireworks!

Like every other traditional Chinese festival, a specific food must be eaten on this day – Tang Yuan, or “Yuan Xiao”, depends on where you are, it could well be prepared in any sort of way of cooking, with any sort of stuffing – red bean, mashed dates, sugar, dried rose petals, with meat, without meat…, whether the Tang Yuans are steamed, deep fried, boiled, all means one thing – a harmonious year with a reunited family.

On that note, wish you all a prosperous year of golden snake!

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