CHINESE NEW YEAR 2013 10th February 2013…
© Written by Michael Hanna and revised by Daniel Hanna 2013
Chinese New Year 2013
Chinese New Year (according to the lunar calendar) starts on the New Moon (10th February 2013) after the Winter Solstice and is celebrated by millions of people from every corner of the world. Chinese New Year signifies new beginnings and a fresh start. At a social level, this event is very much a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving.
The Lunar Chinese New Year Day (February 10th 2013) is very different from the Solar (Hsia) New Year Day (February 4th 2013).
Whilst the solar (Hsia) calendar starts the New Year at the beginning of Spring, which falls normally between the 4th and 5th of February, the lunar (yueh) calendar marks the new year on the second New moon after the winter solstice. In 2013, Lunar Chinese New Year also called the ‘Spring Festival’, falls on 10th February 2013 which is the New Year that is celebrated by all ethnic Chinese. The solar New Year (4th February 2013) is not celebrated at all and only used for Feng Shui placement.
You may have come across a few websites stating that 2013 is the 4710th Chinese New Year, if you cannot find the reason, here is an answer for you:
The Yellow King’s appointment was held in the spring of 2697 B.C. But they used the winter solstice day as the first day of the year. So the first winter solstice took place on around December 23rd, 2698 B.C. Today’s January 1st means nothing to the Yellow King. If we count that extra eight days in 2698 B.C. for a year, then year 2012 is the 4711th Chinese year.
The weeks running up to New Year’s Day are very important because we must all be very well prepared for the New Year as it sets the example for the year’s luck ahead. For one, all debts have to be repaid before the beginning of the New Year or else it Is said that you will be in debt to others throughout the year. By the same token, anything lent out to family and friends must be collected before the beginning of the New Year or else one will be lending for the rest of the year. This goes with most things; generally, the best attitude to take is to start the New Year as you wish to go on.
People spend a great deal of time cleaning their homes on the week coming up to Chinese New Year as it is extremely important to make sure that the house is thoroughly cleaned and dusted as this ensures that the old stagnant Qi Is swept away so that new, fresh auspicious Qi can enter the home. The whole house must be cleaned before New Year’s Day. Cobwebs must be cleared out and any old and broken items should be thrown away. Following cleaning, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dustpans and other cleaning equipment are put away out of sight. To do otherwise would be to threaten the new qi that is arriving and this is something that everyone wishes to avoid. For our home and office it is a bit of a pain as we treat the western New Year the same as the eastern and we end up doing all these rituals twice every year with such a short space in between.
This is also a time to renew your protective talismans that are used to expel evil throughout the home. People from all over the world will do this by decorating their home with auspicious couplets and emblems with the additional aim to summon good fortune. These appear on paper printed in red or with a red background. To the Chinese, the colour red is a life giving colour, associated with summer, the south and the vermilion bird, which is similar to a phoenix (oddly enough symbolic of rebirth in the west too) and represents the fire element.
Red to the Chinese also represents good fortune, fame and riches. You should be very careful when using the colour red inside your home though; I see many homes and businesses that use very bright reds thinking it will give them good luck, in traditional Feng Shui this is the most potent colour and if used correctly can give good results but, if used in a wrong location it can cause many problems, so a good tip is to keep colours neutral unless you are confident of the elements and their associated colours and usage in Feng Shui.
When you are preparing for the New Year, your house must be decorated with live, blooming plants as these symbolise rebirth and new growth in the household. Flowers such as pussy willow, azalea, peony, water lily or narcissus symbolise wealth and high position in one’s career. If there are no flowers, the result would be a lack of fruit later in the year. It is considered very lucky for the household if a plant blooms on New Year’s Day as they can expect the year ahead to be full of prosperity. Plum blossoms and bamboo are also displayed to symbolise perseverance, reliability and longevity.
After you have placed the flowers, next comes the fruit. Oranges and tangerines are two very symbolic fruits associated with the celebration of Chinese New Year. They are both symbols for abundant happiness. The colour of oranges and tangerines represents gold and, together with a ‘hung bao’ ang pow, (red packet containing money), they are offered to friends and family as gifts symbolising gold ingots.
About a week before Lunar New Year, families will be busy preparing the sacred ceremony performed with tributes and offerings in honour of Heaven (Tien Shen) and Earth (Ti Tu), and of the various deities of the household together with their family ancestors. One of the most well know deities is the Kitchen God who resides over the stove and is said to keep an eye on the interactions of the household year after year, making an annual report on what the family has done in the past year to the Jade Emperor in Heaven around about a week before Chinese New Year Day. Rites and offerings are made to the Kitchen God (Zhou Khun) on this day with hopes that he will speak well of the deeds of the family.
Traditionally, the run up to the celebration of Chinese New Year is the ‘Reunion Dinner’. An extravagant banquet is laid out to mark the onset of the New Year where young and old gather for a reunion dinner to symbolise family harmony. Family members try to get home from different places, wherever they are, before or on New Year’s Eve to celebrate this special occasion in the family home. It is normal for the wives to spend their reunion dinner in the husband’s family home alongside his family.
This event is a huge family banquet that fills the table with all sorts of special dishes and delicacies artistically named with auspicious symbolic meanings assigned to each dish. The dinner will start with a prayer of tribute and offerings to the ancestors and deities at the family altar. It is a very colourful and lively affair when every light is supposed to be kept on in the house throughout the whole night. The bright lights are said to scare away bad spirits.
Some of the dishes that are laid on the banquet table have superstitious attributes. Some of the dishes are commonly foods like Ginkgo nuts; these represent gold ingots and are full of auspicious luck for fertility. Black moss seaweed is a beautiful dish and is also a symbolic food of prosperity. This is also true in the case of a whole chicken which is a desirable addition to the feast. Dried bean curd is placed on the banquet table to symbolise happiness and luck. Lotus seed is seen as another fertility symbol and signifies having many offspring. Nian Gao is a traditional sweet steamed glutinous rice pudding, when you eat this dish you will aid growth and abundance. When you translate bamboo shoots into Chinese, the words sound similar to the Chinese for “hoping that all turns out for the best”. A whole fish with its head and tail intact will represent togetherness throughout the year.
The reunion Dinner
The Reunion Dinner is a very busy event. The women buzz around the kitchen with the dinner preparation whilst the men either watch TV or (guess what?) play mah-jong. Mah-jong is an extremely important part of Chinese culture and is played by men and women alike, often in halls solely dedicated to the game.
Mah-jong is linked with gambling with huge sums of money being won and lost by the players. An excellent memory is required to remember which tiles have been laid down and which remain. Once a certain point in a hand has been passed, you need to pay special attention as if you are the one to put down the tile that enables another player to win that hand, you not only have to pay your own losses on the hand but those of the other two losing players as well. This can mean serious amounts of money.
Children will be bathed and dressed in their new pyjamas and promised the arrival of “Tsai Shen Yeh” (Chai Shen Yeh) (the Wealth God). Whilst they sleep; the children’s parents will slip an ang pow (a red envelope with money) under their pillow signifying a visit from ‘Chai Shen Yeh’ (this is a very similar event to the tooth fairy). It is also very common for children to receive red envelopes from uncles and aunts with the amount that is given being dictated by the closeness of the family relationship and also the age of the child. It is common for the older children to receive more money than younger children. Someone who has a large family and who has taken a hammering on the mah-jong tables is in for trouble!
At midnight, at the turn of the old and New Year, it is common in traditional places and now all over the world to hear sounds similar to a warzone as everyone lets off fire-crackers which serve to scare away the evil spirits and old qi of the past year and to greet the arrival of the New Year. In the UK, sadly it is illegal to set off fireworks on Chinese New Year without permission from the council. Countries like the UK have left the fireworks out and kept to the traditional dragon dance ceremony where people will dress in a large dragon costume and dance around to loud music with drums which works just as well as firecrackers and is also a great experience for everyone. Performers will hold poles and raise and lower the Dragon. It is common for one man to hold a ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ on a pole and entice the Dragon to follow him to the beat of a drum, as if the dragon was searching for wisdom and knowledge.
In your finest and newest clothes, Chinese New Year’s Day itself starts with the exchange of good wishes amongst the family. Married couples present the young ones, children and unmarried adults alike with a Hung-Bao. In Chinese culture, instead of giving a wrapped up present as we do at Christmas in the UK, it is much more common and in some homes customary to give this red envelope containing money. The amount of money contained in the envelope has to be in even numbers. Even numbers are auspicious unless it is a single Chinese i-ching coin on its own. For example, it could be two dollars, ten or twenty dollars. It is amazing how much a person can accumulate in a single day. If you follow this link you will find an article on red envelopes and how they are used for Chinese New Year; if you follow this link you will find more details https://www.fengshuiweb.co.uk/advice/angpow2013.htm
You will also find an article on Chinese talismans below this text; this really is a superb article and you must read it; follow this link after you have finished this article. https://www.fengshuiweb.co.uk/advice/talismans2013.htm
The day continues with visits to different relatives. The visiting rota has its unspoken hierarchy arrangement. The oldest get to sit at home and wait for the younger relatives to visit them to exchange good wishes to each other. This is a very exciting time for the children because nearly every ‘Kung Xee Fa Chai’ (it means Congratulations and May you be Prosperous) we recite, we get an ang pow (red envelope containing money) for it.
The second day of Chinese New Year is named ‘Kai Nien’ meaning “Year Beginning” which starts with a very early morning breakfast. Special dishes with symbolic names will be served. The special dish of this day is long noodles which are served with everyone competing to toss the noodles as high as possible with their chopsticks. The tossing of noodles is a symbolic activity done to promote longevity. This means that, unless you are unable to do so, you stand up and raise your arms full stretch in the air holding the noodles aloft. In order to get extra lift off, some people use super long chopsticks and stand on chairs so you should probably make sure the ceiling fan is turned off during this event.
Unlike in the west, Chinese New Year is not a time for drinking a lot of alcohol. In fact, alcohol is generally not drunk as people save space for themselves to drink enormous amounts of Chinese tea. Some people will have a Chinese wine with their meal but, particularly as the emphasis is so much on the family nature of the celebrations, nobody goes over the top.
Two days of overeating and general fun and games are quite a lot as the Chinese do not hold back on these occasions. The Chinese relationship with food is close all the year but at no time more than at New Year. Many dishes have particular significance, especially at this time. Even everyday dishes like fish and turnips have special meanings and none more so than fish balls and meat balls both of which suggest reunion, which is a most important element at this time. However, after two days of festivities and fun, even the Chinese can have enough and recognise that energy levels need to be restored. The third day is therefore a day of calm. Traditionally, it is not a day for risks or adventure. The young ones will venture out to see friends but it is generally a quiet day for everyone. Usually, no offices or businesses will be open on this day.
Normal procedures return with companies, shops and stores opening up for business as usual on the fourth day. Many businesses will choose a specific day to start business using date selection with the assistance of their Feng Shui Practitioner and initiate the new trading year with a spectacular display of Lion Dance and fire crackers. It is a very noisy and exciting event for both employees and passers-by.
Greetings and an air of festivity remain for another eleven days through to the full moon of the first lunar month when another celebration follows, but this time it is to mark the closing of the Spring Festival. Day 15 is also called the ‘Spring Lantern Festival’ (Yuan Xiao Jie). This wonderfully romantic celebration takes place under a full moon on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month of the year.
On this day, the old and young carry a colourful lantern and gather in a neighbouring public place. They gather to admire and appreciate the first full moon of the year (very similar to the Mid Autumn Festival). In China, there are still villages that hold a big Tang Yuan (rice dumplings) cooking and eating session. The dumplings are round and symbolise family unity and completeness. The mid-month Lantern Festival traditionally brings the seasonal passage of the New Year to a conclusion
What can I do before the New Year to achieve good luck?
- Ensure that your house, flat, office or any other building is completely clean from top to bottom, to encourage good luck in the coming year. We spend 2-3 days cleaning every single area of our home just before New Year.
- You should open all the windows and doors in every single part of the home as this is said to bring in clean, new good luck for the year.
- Switch on the lights in the home inside and out, this is said to attract good luck from outside and if the windows and doors are wide open it is easy for the luck to enter. The bright lights and open windows are also used to scare away evil sprits.
- Many people, especially Chinese will buy a new pair of slippers at New Year, apparently it is said to stop people gossiping about you, In China, face and reputation is very important.
- This is generally normal all over the world, but the Chinese spend a lot of time bathing before New Year and they cover themselves with Pomelo leaves to enhance their health for the year. Pomelo is the largest of citrus trees and they grow as large as a bowling ball and are said to be very healthy to drink and eat.
- The Chinese believe that whatever happens to them on New Years day sets how the year ahead will be for them; this is why they avoid arguments, using knives, driving too far and they love to gamble on New Years day as they hope to create good luck and wealth.
Some rules and regulations the Chinese stick to on the Chinese New Year Day.
- Because everybody is in a celebrating mood on Chinese new years, people should not argue or disagree with each other.
- Parents should not punish or discipline the children. Otherwise, you will have more arguments in the New Year.
- Women should refrain from using a knife or scissors in the kitchen. The knife denotes anger and danger in the woman’s life and the scissors predict the woman cutting people out of her life. Women do not prepare or cook meals on this day but eat leftover food from the day before instead.
- It is considered bad luck if you smash a plate, bowl, cup or any other similar kitchen crockery; this brings bad luck regarding finances throughout the year, all smashed crockery should be placed in a round container until the next rubbish collection day.
- It is said that if you sweep up rubbish or throw away rubbish on Chinese New Year Day, you will be sweeping or throwing away the wealth and luck that resides in your home.
- Do not take a lunchtime nap today as this will encourage laziness throughout the whole year.
- You should not take a bath, shower or wash your hair on Chinese New Years Day as this will wash away all good luck for you personally.
- Refrain from wearing black or white colours when visiting friends on this day as these colours are associated with funerals and death.
- Do not eat rice or oat porridge for breakfast on this day as rice or oat porridge is associated with the poor eating rice or oat porridge in the past; this symbolises a loss of wealth.
- If somebody that you know or know of has recently passed away, it is not advisable to visit a family member’s house that is connected to the recently deceased.
- Do not eat meat for breakfast on this day as many gods that are vegetarians arrive on the Chinese New Year Day festival this day and this could upset them.
- When you wake somebody up on this morning, do not use their name as this person will be dependant on you all year long to motivate them.
- Refrain from taking medicine that is not essential for your health as this could symbolise weakness and could bring illness to you throughout some point of the year.
- Do not wash clothes on this day; Chinese New Year Day is the birthday of the god of Water.
- Do not collect debts on this day as you will find yourself chasing money for the rest of the year.
- Do not let anybody take anything out of your pockets, purse, handbag or wallet as this symbolises money loss throughout the year.
- Do not cut your hair or nails on this day as it is believed that you will be bringing pain to your relations.
- Do not buy a pair of shoes (slippers are fine) as it is considered very unlucky; “shoe” translated in Mandarin means evil and when translated in Cantonese means rough.
- Do not talk about anything negative on this day as you will be manifesting how the rest of your year is to be lived.
- Do not offer anything in fours; when you translate “four” in Chinese it sounds like death.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and would like to wish you all a very happy, successful and lucky new year in 2013. There are many links below related to the Chinese New Year and traditions.
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© Feng Shui Store Michael Hanna 2013