The Blue and Gold

Chinese New Year

Jeremy Yang, Author/Editor

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Chinese New Year

 

Each year between January 21st and February 20th, people around the world celebrate the New Lunar Year, also known as Chinese New Year. Chinese families gather for a special celebration and eat traditional foods, including vegetable filled dumplings, milk tea, red tea, rice cakes, turnip cakes, whole fish, red bean cakes, longevity noodles, wontons, and mandarin oranges. The Mandarin pronunciation of orange (tsang sai) sounds like the Cantonese word for gold, which people believe bring wealth. Houses are decorated with red paper cut-outs with the Chinese characters, meaning “good fortune,” “health,” “wealth,” and “longevity” written on them.

A Chinese New Year custom is to clean the house and wear new clothes, sweeping away “ill-fortune,” and  bringing good luck for the rest of the year. Other activities include lighting firecrackers, giving money in red paper envelopes, and dragon dances. One third of the Mainland (China) population, 500 million people, and one sixth of the world celebrate this holiday. The occasion is celebrated publicly in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and other Asian countries, as well as in Chinatowns across the globe.

 

This year is the year of the Dog. Each year, the animal is different and the cycle repeats every 12 years. The Chinese animal zodiac signs are in order of mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, chicken, dog, and pig. The specific order is due to a legend telling the tale of 13 animals getting ready to race to heaven. The mouse and the cat were friends before the race, but when the race came, the mouse didn’t wake up the cat and left by himself. Along the way, the mouse caught a ride on the ox and managed to make first place with the ox finishing second. (The animals finish in order of the zodiacs) Sadly, the cat was left behind and never finished, so he didn’t make the list.

According to legend, Chinese New Year started with a fight of the Chinese citizens against a beast called Year(nian). He was described as an ox with a lion head that lives in the sea. Eventually, the people identified the beast’s weaknesses for fire, the color red, and loud noises, and people continue to use this tradition during the holiday  to keep away Year.

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