Interesting Facts about the Chinese New Year
What I learned about the Chinese New Year is that it's a wonderful Chinese Celebration where in Chinese Families gather together to dine and wish each other good luck for the whole year.
1. Chinese Greetings
Greet your Chinese friends by saying Gong Hey Fat Choy in Cantonese or Gong Xi Fa Cai in Mandarin. Gong Xi Fa Cai also means wishing you to be prosperous in the coming year. If they greeted you then you simply respond with "Wishing you a prosperous year, too." I've even read that you can be more open with family and friends by saying "Hong Bao Na Lai," which is translated as "May I have the red envelope, please!"
2. Red envelope
The red envelope is also known as the Red packet, Money envelopes, Lai see, Hongbao, Ampao or Ang Pow for Good Luck. They put in real money or they call it Lucky money inside the envelopes, one of my favorites during the CNY Celebration. A tradition where in parents gives Ang Pow to children and unmarried adults among their family, relatives and even friends.
Every year I receive Red envelopes from my Chinese Friends, I haven't really use the money at all. Instead I placed all of it in a big envelope along with my important documents for safekeeping. I might use the money when I'm done working here in Singapore , for now I just love looking at them safely piled in my drawer.
3. Two Mandarin Orange
I find these tradition quiet interesting where families do house visits and each member carries with them two mandarin oranges. They visit the head or the oldest family member and each one gives two oranges and at the same time conveys their Chinese New Year greetings. The parents and the married adults then gives out the red packets along with the oranges.
They prefer Mandarin oranges and even Tangerines as it considered traditional symbols of abundance and good fortune, while for some the orange represent as a gold nugget.
4. Lo-Hei Yu Sheng
A Chinese Tradition of tossing the prosperity salad. An appetizer named "Yu Sheng" containing specific ingredients that represents a certain meaning ,which are then presented separately in a large platter. The act of mixing the yu sheng is called ‘lo hei’, and hei means ‘to rise’, again that symbolises prosperity.
The ingredients with their meaning:
Raw fish: nian nian you yu, for abundance
Lime: da ji da li, for good luck
Five spice powder and pepper: wu fu lin men, for good fortune
Plum sauce: tian tian mi mi, for a honeyed year
White radish: wan shi ru yi, for success
Red chilli: zhao cai jin bao, for prosperity
Lettuce: he qi sheng cai, for harmony and wealth
Carrot: bu bu gao sheng, for eminence
Pickled red ginger: hong yun dang tou, for good luck
Oil: fu yun nian nian, for good fortune and luck
Peanuts: jin sha man tang, for prosperity
Crispy crackers: bian di huang jin, for prosperity
The first time I've seen this tradition I was a bit confused why they're wasting food. Some just toss it in quiet a mess all around and it drops on sides of the table and even on the floor. My Chinese friend told me that some people just gets really overwhelm and toss it too high for a prosperous year. They said the higher you aim the more prosperous you will be for the year. The first time I've tried it I was pretty excited, I was told to say all my prayers and wishes for the year with every toss. I wished for good health for my family and more travels to come. Indeed I had lots of travel last year and I was blessed with wonderful experiences.
5. Steam Boat
One way to celebrate Chinese New Year is with a Hot Pot Meal or commonly known as Steam Boat in Singapore. This is a must on every household during the festive season. My Chinese Friends Family prepares the soup base for the steamboat ahead of time, they boil the soup for hours before its ready to be serve on the table. The soup is place on a stainless pot over an electric stove at the center of the dining table as all the raw ingredients are placed around it. During the feast meat, mushrooms and vegetables are toss over to the soup as the family patiently waits for the dish to be cooked. Each one gets a bowl where they can scoop out the cooked ingredients and for some they even have sauce for dipping.
The ingredients placed on the boiling soup also bears certain meanings:
Prawns are a symbol of happiness.
Long noodles signify longevity. Avoid cutting them to small portions.
Fish & abalone is a symbol of abundance.
Dumplings are a symbol of wealth.
Cooked Rice for prosperity.
I'm really not a big fan of steamboat but the warmth of the meal and having my friends around the table brings a whole meaning to it. Now I'm accustomed to the tradition that every Chinese New Year I need to have a steamboat feast to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
6. Spring Cleaning
This a mandatory act for Chinese Families. I've read that they clean their house thoroughly before the new year to get rid of the dust which is considered as "old" , driving away bad luck or old things to welcome a new start of the year.
7. New Things
My Chinese friends makes sure to lean all the corner of their house and at the same time purchase new household things. They also make sure to to wear something new during the Chinese New year and having it in red is a plus points too, as Red symbolizes good fortune and joy.
The fireworks is launched right after 12 midnight on New Year's Eve, it said to drive away the evil and brings good luck for the whole year.
9. Meanwhile in Philippines.. This is how I celebrate the Chinese New year.
I'm not really Chinese even thou my relatives told me that my grandmother has the Chinese lineage. In our family we simply join the celebration with a box of Tikoy. Tikoy is also known as Chinese New Year's cake, ti kuih and Nian gao. It is made from glutinous rice,lard,water and sugar and it symbolizes higher year for the family. It is famous as a gift in the Chinoy or Chinese-Filipino Community in Philippines. They said the sticky texture represents the families strong ties for the whole year.
We all have different customs and tradition, it's a must to respect each others belief and values. I'm glad I get to experience the Chinese New Year, it's a beautiful celebration of being with your family and friends and wishing everyone good fortune and joy.
As for every traveler and tourist visiting a Chinese Country or a country with Chinese Citizens we must join and celebrate this wonderful start of the year, wishing our Chinese friends and the Chinese Community a prosperous new year. Welcome year of the Fire Money!