|Chinese New Year, 2012|
Chinese New Year is celebrated throughout China, of course, but also in every country to which Chinese people have emigrated and now live.
Think about it! Every major world city has a Chinatown – a vibrant, noisy, busy place, bustling with crowds of shoppers, punctuated by shuffling older ladies in their slippers, and threaded through with scampering children many of whom will have received a valuable ‘red envelope’ as a New Year gift.
It’s a place of steaming noodles, wonderful fragrant aromas and always the best place to find a filling tasty meal at a fraction the cost of anywhere else in town.
But it is during the fifteen days of the Lunar New Year celebrations that the pace ramps up. Turn a corner and you might find a troupe of youngsters about to hop inside a garish red and gold lion suit. These monsters can frighten the very young more than any Santa Claus, but they are the heart and soul of any real Chinese celebration.
These, and the fireworks! Chinese love noise, believing it scares away the evil spirits and welcomes the good. At New year streets will be scattered with the red paper remains of crackers that have been thrown down on the pavement to pop and sputter and add to the general hilarity.
Like most Asian people, the Chinese love to share their fun and celebrations so this is a time to get together and party – and that means not only with their close friends and families but also the people in whatever country they happen to be at New Year.
If you want to exchange Chinese new year greetings (or want to know what someone is wishing you) these two phrases may be useful: Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái wishing you prosperity and another, simply Happy New Year – Xīn Nián Kuài Lè. Visit here for more Mandarin words, and to learn how to pronounce them.
There is much symbolism connected with the various parts of the celebrations and an important one is the 'eye-dotting' of the lion before it is able to perform the lion dance. This is said to awaken the spirit of the lion. Hoi Gong is a traditional ceremony to bless and awaken a new lion or in a more traditional concept bring down the spirit of the lion from the heaven and give it life. In other words this ceremony signifies the existence or birth of a new lion into the world.
Peking duck is a most fortuitous dish to serve as ducks represent fidelity, and even the lacquer red colour of the crispy skin is considered good luck.
Dumplings are also considered good luck too as they resemble silver ingots. Some say the more dumplings you eat during New Year celebration, more money you can make in the New Year.
Other foods are thought to be particularly lucky to eat at Chinese New Year:
Bamboo shoots - wealth
Black moss seaweed - wealth
Dried bean curd - happiness, although fresh tofu is not served because it is white and this symbolises death and misfortune
Chicken - happiness and marriage, and family reunion, when served whole
Eggs - fertility
Egg Rolls - wealth
Fish served whole means prosperity.
Chinese garlic chives - everlasting, a long life
Lychee nuts - close family ties
Noodles - A long life
Oranges - wealth
Peanuts - a long life
Pomelo - abundance, prosperity, having children
Seeds - lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, etc. - having a large number of children
Tangerines - luck
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