Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Snake!

February 10, 2013    |    By +
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Chinese New Year is a time where family members celebrate, reunite, and give thanks. The celebration lasts for 15 days. Each year, my family goes to the temple a week before and the day of the New Year to say thank you to the gods for a healthy and prosperous year. We usually arrange dinner on New Year’s Eve where the spirits of our ancestors, together with those living, celebrate the New Year together, making all the generations one.

This year we celebrate the Snake on February 10th, 2013. Those born in the year of the snake are usually graceful, intelligent, wise, and exciting people. It is considered a good omen to live in a house with a “snake” because it means that you will not starve.

People always ask, what do Chinese people do to prepare for the New Year? Well it’s simple, to start off the new year on the right foot we always clean the entire house from top to bottom to get rid of any dust or dirt from the old year. We fill up red envelopes with new money, typically given to children and unmarried adults (at any age).

The whole family traditionally buys brand new outfits from head-to-toe. It’s always suggested that everyone wears one item that is red, representing luck and happiness, even if it is your undergarment. We also buy plenty of flowers like plum blossoms and cherry blossoms, candy, and the most perfectly round oranges and tangerines that we can find. We buy poultry and fish that will be served for dinner as well as giving thanks to the gods. Whole chicken and fish symbolize prosperity and completeness, so you never want to cut it in pieces until it’s time to serve.

There is always a vegetarian dish known as “Jai” to show the gods we do not plan on slaughtering any animals unless necessary. Ingredients include black moss, dried bean curd, bamboo shoots, and vermicelli. It may sound weird but to us it’s another yummy dish for a very special occasion!

For dessert we eat “Tang Yuan”, a delicious concoction of rice balls usually handmade and filled with sesame paste representing the roundness of the moon the completeness of your family members altogether on this night.

During the 15-day duration, we go to each others houses (never empty handed) with goodie bags filled with oranges, dried goods, and cookies bringing luck and joy. The 15 days are a part of the celebration because before modern travel was possible with planes and trains, it could have taken several days to get to a relative’s house in another province. You need the time to make your rounds! At each house we all sit down, drink tea, and eat AGAIN until it is time to go to the next person’s house. Chinese New Year is a time for bringing celebration and luck to everyone for their new year ahead. I hope that you all enjoy your Chinese New Year too, however you choose to celebrate.

If you want to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese to impress your friends, you can try saying, “sssin yen kwai leh”!

Sources courtesy of: http://www.usbridalguide.com/special/chinesehoroscopes/Snake.htm

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Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at Gifts.com. She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

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