The Lunar New Year also known as Chinese New Year falls on February 19, 2015. Yes that's tomorrow. This holiday begins with the first new moon of the Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival lasts for 15 days. This happy occasion is celebrated in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as Korea and Japan. Many Chinese communities in major cities around the world also carry out their own festivities. Preparations for the celebration can begin weeks before the big day and there are a number of customs/traditions that people observe in order to usher in the coming year in the most propitious manner. Here are some of the most common. We actually do most of these in our household.
1. Clean the house
The entire home should be cleaned before New Year's day. Anything broken should be repaired or discarded and all cleaning implements are to be stored away out of sight. This tradition is founded on the belief that a thorough cleaning of your house will "sweep away" all the stagnant energy that has built up over the past year and prepares you for a fresh start.
2. Decorate the house
People decorate their homes because it is festive and also to encourage good fortune and abundance. Red is widely used because it symbolizes happiness. Gold is used to signify prosperity. People use items like red lanterns (good luck), mystic knots (protection) and plants (good luck). They also commonly place nine oranges or tangerines with the leaves attached to guard against bad luck and attract prosperity.
3. Buy lucky flowers and plants
Decorating the home with flowers is believed to have a positive impact on the family's fortune since it is based on the belief that fruits cannot be beared without flowers and they are thought to be good decorations since they are full of meaning. Fortuitous flowers and plants include pussy willows (growth & prosperity), cherry blossoms (rebirth & new growth), orchids (perfection & purity), peonies (love & romance) and bamboo (luck).
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4. Get a haircut
It is considered bad luck to cut anything or handle any sharp objects during the New Year so people typically schedule haircuts the week before.
5. Buy new clothes
Wearing new clothes on New Year's day is a way to start the year off right. Of course red is the preferred color and some will opt to wear new red underwear. Black and white are considered unlucky colors and should be avoided.
6. Get together for dinner with loved ones
Families gather for reunion dinners to feast on a bounty of traditional dishes which are rich in symbolism. Learn more about Chinese New Year Lucky Foods.
7. Give red envelopes
This is a time of sharing and connecting and people give each other gifts of red envelopes (lai see/hong bao) filled with money. The red color of the envelopes symbolizes good luck and the tradition is believed to ward off evil spirits. New notes in even amounts should be given as odd numbers are associated with cash distributed at funerals.
8. Avoid taboos
There are a number of superstitions centered around activities that are considered unlucky and should thus be avoided during the New Year. Since this is a time of happiness and good will, don't fight or quarrel. Don't say anything negative and don't cry because it's bad luck. Avoid washing your hair on the first day because you don't want to wash away any good luck. Same goes for washing clothes. Similarly no cleaning or taking out the trash if you don't want to rid yourself of good fortune.
This is the year of the wooden ram, sheep or goat depending on your interpretation. In Chinese, the word yang 羊 is used interchangeably for all three. In any case, the ram/sheep/goat is the eighth sign of twelve in the Chinese zodiac and is considered an auspicious animal that brings promise and prosperity.
Here's to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year to everyone celebrating! Gong Hei Fat Choy! Gong Xi Fa Cai! 新年快樂! 恭禧发财! My husband and I always visit the Buddhist temple with my mom on New Year's Day. If you're in New York City, here is a rundown of some of the festivities happening around town.