Years ago, my family started studying Buddhism. As part of this, we started celebrating Chinese New Year with a huge Asian inspired feast. We didn’t understand the holiday as well as you would think. I mean, how difficult is it to understand New Year’s. Except that in China (and other Asian countries), the New Year is more than just a singular holiday. It’s 15 days long and is filled with tradition.
Everything associated with Chinese New Year is full of symbolism. Nothing is accidental. Everything they serve for the feast and everything they do is to ensure a year filled with blessings. Most wish for long lives and prosperity so that’s where I will focus this post. However, I highly recommend the book Good Luck Life by Rosemary Gong for a more in depth explanation into the holiday and it’s symbolism.
To start with, Chinese New Year is a lunar holiday. That means it’s date changes every year. Chinese New Year begins on the first new moon of each year and goes until the following full moon which is known as the Lantern Festival.
I know this is a brief post about this wonderful holiday but I could spend days talking about it and still have more to say so I’m going to share with you the notes I made to help me remember the different days.
Chinese New Year
Pre-day one- clean house thoroughly, decorate house. At midnight (new year’s eve) open all doors and windows. Eat dumplings and whole chicken/fish with whole family.
Day one – No meat or white foods. Wear red/new clothes. Eat jai. Give red envelopes with clean dollar bills to children and unmarried persons. No borrowing money, no foul language, no #4 spoken, no crying, no knives/scissors, do not wash hair, start candy dish, visit oldest relative, eat oranges/mandarins.
Day two – pray to ancestors and all gods, be extra kind to dogs, all dirt/rubbish must go out back door.
Day three/four – son in-laws pay respect to parents in law.
Day five – “Po Woo” – stay home to welcome god of wealth. Do not visit friend or family, eat traditional Chinese food.
Day six – visit family.
Day seven – visit family, eat noodles and fish, drink of 7 types of veggies
Day eight – visit family, family dinner, midnight pray to God of Heaven.
Day nine – Visit family, make offerings to Jade Emperor.
Day ten – Visit family, friends and family for dinner
Day eleven – friends and family for dinner
Day twelve – friends and family for dinner
Day thirteen – eat only rice congee and mustard greens
Day fourteen – prepare for Lantern festival
Day fifteen – Lantern festival
We used to have a traditional Chinese candy dish or Tray of Togetherness which had nine segments – eight around the center “dish”. You will recognize that shape as the same as the bagua (for those who are reading my Feng Shui posts). It didn’t hold up over the years and I have yet to find another but the dish was meant to hold a variety of snacks such as dried coconut and candied lotus root.
The reason for avoiding scissors or hair washing had to do with not damaging your prosperity. You don’t sweep either for fear that you will disturb the prosperity the Gods give you on this day.
The number four sounds like death in Chinese so it is avoided.
Traditional foods for prosperity – Whole fish/poultry, oranges/mandarins, and dumplings.
Foods for longevity – noodles (the longer the better), peanuts, long grain rice, and any other long food such as green beans.
Traditional desserts are served to encourage a sweet life.
Chinese New Year was also a time to repay all your debts and to purchase new clothing so that you enter the new year with prosperity. I like that idea of repaying all your debts before the new year. We’ve never been able to do that but this year it looks like we are well on the way to having that as a realistic goal. Some day we’ll start a new year with the best chance of prosperity.
This year, as most years, we started this Chinese New Year with a huge feast at our favorite Chinese restaurant with a large group of friends. The restaurant puts together a special multi-course meal for us and we fill a section of the restaurant (every year the number of people grows, soon we’ll have the entire restaurant). I have to say it’s one of my favorite holidays. We sit with friends and eat great food, what could be better.
I know the time of the feast has passed but that doesn’t mean you can’t still participate. Make a Chinese/Asian inspired feast with friends and family and see what happens. It definitely makes the gloomy days brighter and was an amazing send off for many of the foods we’ll be avoiding over the next few weeks as we do more allergy testing.