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Posts Tagged ‘Year of the Rabbit’

You may be hearing from friends and family that this is the “Year of the Rabbit”? But what does this mean? Well, it is Chinese New Year and according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar – it is literally the year of the “rabbit.”

Most people’s understanding of the Chinese Zodiac Calendar doesn’t extend beyond what they see on the paper placemats that cover the tables of their favorite Chinese restaurants. But there so much more to know – it dates back 2,000 years!

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Kung Hei Fat Choy! This means “Happy New Year!” in Chinese. Chinese New Year started yesterday February 3rd, but it goes on for 15 days, so I thought I would provide a little Chinese New Year 101! I am half Chinese and half Irish, but I grew up in a home that was centered around the Chinese culture. I thought I would share a mini Chinese New Year 101 with you and some of the traditions that make me who I am today.

Chinese New Year is the most important of the Chinese holidays, and is a time of feasting with the family, celebration, fireworks, and gift giving. It is a 15-day holiday, beginning on the first day of a new moon and ending with the full moon on the day of the Lantern Festival.

The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar year, so the date of Chinese New Year changes every year. The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. There are various stories that explain this. The simplest is that Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited all of the animals to join him for a New Year celebration, but only 12 animals turned up. To reward the animals that did come, Buddha named a year after each of them in the order that they arrived, starting with the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Sheep), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

Why Firecrackers?
It used to be traditional to set off firecrackers at Chinese New Year, to see off the old year and welcome in the new. Ancient Chinese legends tell of the Nian, a man-eating beast from the mountains, which came out every winter to feast on humans. To scare the Nian away, the people used loud noises such as firecrackers and fireworks, and bright colors, particularly red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations.

Lucky Money – also pronounced, “li-see”?
At Chinese New Year parents, family and friends give money to children in red envelopes. The red color symbolizes good luck, and the amount of money can be anything from a small coin to a larger amount. Lucky money envelopes are also known as Red Packets or Red Envelopes.

Cleaning the Home and Painting Your Home?
In the run up to Chinese New Year, homes are spring-cleaned thoroughly so that all the bad luck of the previous year is swept away (and on the first day of the new year, brooms and dustpans are put away and never used in case the good luck of the new year is swept away!) Often houses are freshly painted. Traditional Chinese homes sometimes get a new coat of red paint, as red is a particularly lucky color.

What are Chinese Couplets?
Also used to decorate homes are Chinese couplets. These are two tall posters, usually consisting of 4 Chinese characters each (as eight is a lucky number), which are hung on either side of the front door. The couplets express traditional good wishes for the year ahead.

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Happy Chinese New Year! May your celebration of the incoming Year of the Rabbit be as fun as ours. We wish you all a prosperous New Year!
 

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