Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Celebrate the Year of the Monkey

Happy Chinese New Year! 

Gong xi fai cai!
Kung hei fat choy! 
Welcome, Year of the Fire Monkey. Like Korean Seollal​, Vietnamese Tet, Mongolian Tsagaan Sarand Tibetan Losar​, Chinese New Year  in the northern hemisphere farewells winter and the year gone by and rings in spring and the fresh year. Making wishes for luck, prosperity and good fortune and warding off evil spirits are central to many celebrations, which vary across China and Lunar New Year cultures.  Many of my friends ask me how they can celebrate the New Year... I usually say, lots of delicious food with family and friends .... but there are some little customs which I follow - not sure whether they are just things I remember from my childhood or things I have read about or heard from others. 

Things to do for Chinese New Year: 
1. Clean  your house before New Year's Day - symbolic of cleaning away any misfortune, and preparing for the good fortune of the new year. 
2. Give lucky red packets filled with money to children. These are called hong bao /lai see

3. Decorate with red lanterns, and Chinese sayings ( usually gold writing on red paper) at the front door.

4. As mentioned before, prepare special New Year food - we love all sorts of dumplings, red bean cakes, fortune cookies, red pork buns, noodles, lettuce cups with meat, noodles, spring rolls, fish and  chicken - well, any sort of good food, really. However, some foods are symbolic for good fortune and good health  : spring rolls represent gold bars; the Chinese word for 'carp" (fish) sounds like good fortune; dumplings shaped like old Chinese currency; noodles for long life; lettuce to signify new life; 
5. Wear the colour "red" and it is also said to be good luck if you wear new red clothes!
6. Stay up to welcome in the New Year, and make lots of noise ( firecrackers)  to frighten away any bad spirits. 
While these are a few things recommended for good fortune, there are consequently practices  to avoid. 
 Things to Avoid for Chinese New Year. 
1. Cleaning/sweeping/vacuuming - you do not want to sweep away the good fortune which arrives with the New Year. 
2. Similarly, washing clothes and hair. The first two days of the New Year are dedicated to the Water God, and also the character for hair has a similar pronunciation for becoming wealthy, so you do not want to wash away your wealth. 
3. Clothes that need mending - clothes in disrepair should not been worn during the New Year 
4. Rice porridge  - especially not for breakfast on New Year's Day. Just as with new clothes, you should start the year off as you would like it to continue. Rice porridge or congee is considered poor person's food, so should be avoided during New Year, even if you love it, like me! 
5. Debts. All debts should be paid before the New Year. 
6. Breakages . Try not to break household items during the New Year as this could be a negative omen for the rest of the year. 

If you really want to know about some more dos and don'ts ...
Today, the Sydney Morning Herald published an interesting article including a  list of dos and don't s for the Chinese New Year.... Here's the link 
While I follow a few of the customs when they suit me ( like the one about not cleaning or washing!), I think the best "dos for Chinese New Year are
-  to have fun by joining in some festivities in your own town... 
We will be participating in the Lantern walk here in Newcastle

- cook and share your favourite food ... home made is best! 

- spend time with your family , even if at times, they are a little crazy! 



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