Written by Andrew Kao
As January comes to an end, a lot of us have made a New Years resolution at the beginning of the month and have completely forgot about them. As we close out the month and enter the month of February, a different kind of new year is happening, the lunar new year or Chinese New Year or even the Spring Festival to some. Though there is no set date in the Gregorian calendar because the lunar new year would follow the lunar calendar (naturally), it was harder to pinpoint when this day will come every year. This day would fall anywhere between the dates of January 23rd and February 20th. I was never good at keeping track of how the lunar calendar but luckily being a child of immigrated parents, that is something I never had to really keep track of.
A time of celebration and festivities with families and loved ones. Growing up in a Taiwanese American household I was lucky to celebrate both. Watching the ball drop with family and seeing the beautiful lights and confetti come out in time square and gazing at the hundreds of thousands of people who came from around the world, stand in the cold only to count down into the new year. Though this was and will continue to be a family tradition of ours, what this new year really meant for us was that a few weeks later it would be a more festive new year for us.
This holiday was one of the biggest holiday in our household (next to Christmas and Thanksgiving). And like all major holidays, family this one was always the main focus. Whatever problems we had with each other, we had to set them aside and come together. Nothing else mattered for the next few days. Preparation for this holiday meant spending a full day just to clean the house. This was a sign of warding off and get rid of the old energy or bad vibes that may have been lingering around the house. Giant red scrolls were plastered all over the doorways and entrance, each with a different message, usually for luck into the new year and bountiful blessings and many more. After all the cleaning was done, the following day was dedicated solely to shop for groceries and other festival items.
The last and final day of the lunar month was the day. This was when all our family and friends would come and gather together to bond and celebrate the new year. Almost like New Year’s Eve and popping champagne, except in my opinion a little more extravagant. On that night, we would welcome all our family and friends into our home with a list of different phrases and sayings. Phrases such as 新年快樂 (xing nian kuai le) meaning happy new year, 恭喜發財 (gong xi fa cai) which means congratulations and prosperity, 萬事如意 (wan shi ru yi) which means hope everything goes smoothly and many other phrases embedded in our minds.
When dinner time comes around there is a whole buffet of traditional food. The food for Chinese New Years is usually pretty standard. There will usually always be some long noodles representing living a long life, dumplings are usually a symbol of unity because of it’s round shape, rice cake because the Chinese word for rice cake is (nian gao), which also sounds like ‘high year’, which represents a bigger and better year coming. Another word would be orange because the word for orange would be cheng which also sounds like the word success, so usually there would be a lot of oranges lying around the household. And the list goes on and on.
The tradition is suppose to continue with firecrackers but living in New York where firecrackers aren’t considered legal, we usually skip that tradition. But, the firecrackers are usually set off to scare away the evil spirits . Usually, the one who sets off the firecracker will obtain good luck throughout the new year.
The night finally ends with the best part (for kids specifically), where the elders and married couples usually gather together and hand out red envelopes with money inside. This is a custom done because we believe that this will ward off all the evil in the life and keep the younger generation from sickness. Red was chosen because of the lucky color and inside the envelope usually contains money amounting to an even digit because of Chinese superstitions. Usually, the festivities continue throughout China and all parts of Asia that celebrate this holiday. Different parts of Asia might celebrate differently but for me, this is what I know and what I’m accustomed to. This is my Chinese New Year.
Usually, the festivities continue throughout China and all parts of Asia that celebrate this holiday. Different parts of Asia might celebrate differently but for me, this is what I know and what I’m accustomed to. This is my Chinese New Year.