Chinese New Year 4712-A A +A
By Luci Lizares
Thursday, January 30, 2014
TO US, Christians and for all who follow the Gregorian calendar, when the clock struck twelve ushering in the New Year in January, we welcomed the year 2014. However, to the Chinese calendar, tomorrow January 31, will be the year 4712.
The Chinese New Year is also called the Spring Lantern Festival and regarded as the most important of the Chinese Festivals. Now we know why the tourist district in Lacson Street is covered with lanterns. The celebration lasts 15 days for the traditional Chinese.
There are many traditions and customs associated with Chinese New Year. If you haven’t done so, (I have for most parts of my home but not all yet though), families thoroughly clean their house in order to sweep away any ill fortune and to make way for good luck. In addition, every family purchases enough food including fish, meat, roasted nuts and seed, all kinds of candles and fruits for the festival period.
The Chinese decorate their windows and doors with delicate red paper cutouts or poetic couplets to express joy and hope for the New Year. They also give children “lucky money” or ampao in red envelops.
Red is very predominant during Chinese New Year. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. During our Chinese New Year party, most of the Women In Travel came in flaming red.
The Dragon Dance is another highlight of the lantern festival. While dragons are legendary animals, they are important to the Chinese who think of them as helpful and friendly creatures. They are not like the fierce, fire breathing monsters who carry off princesses in fairy tales and eat people as in the movie Hobbit. Chinese dragons are associated with storm clouds and life giving rain. They have special powers so they fly in the air, swim and walk on land. Dragon dances are performed during the New Year to scare away evil spirits. The performers hold poles to raise and lower the dragon. Sometimes, a man has a “Pearl of Wisdom” on a pole and entices the Dragon to follow him to the beat of the drum as if searching for wisdom and knowledge.
Firecrackers and fireworks are common customs during Chinese New Year. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in an ancient tradition. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits. Legend has it that a cruel monster would eat an animal and even a human being a day. The people were so scared that they would hide in the evenings when the monster “nian” would come out. However, they discovered that the nian was afraid of fireworks and the color red. As a result, the custom of wearing the red color and setting off fireworks has remained staples of the Chinese New Year!
But most importantly, families gather for a big family reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve. The Chinese pay visits to their relatives as part of the New Year celebration.
The Chinese Spring Festival originated during the Shang Dynasty which was about the 17th-11th century B.C. Then as it is now, it celebrates family reunions, rich and colorful activities, and hopes with the advent of spring and flowers blossoming.
The arrival of the Year of the Horse is a time to reconcile differences, let go of all grudges and sincerely wish everyone, health and happiness. What would be a better way to start the year!
Peace and good health in the Year of the Horse! (????, ma nián an kang)
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on January 30, 2014.