The Lunar New Years is China’s most important holiday – and what a celebration! Schools close for a month and businesses close for up to five days to give everyone a chance to travel to their homes of origin to be with their families to celebrate.
Family and Fun
Asked what’s special about the celebrations, Senior Planet trainers Grace Maa and Ying Cheng answers are immediate and identical: “The wonderful celebratory meals shared with family and friends!”
Finally! 2022 – Year of the Tiger!
Expectations are particularly high during the Year of the Tiger. “Tiger symbolizes vitality and courage,” explains Cheng (at right, dolled up for New Year!). “Both are much needed to fight against the pandemic. So the tiger year brings hope.” The Tiger also brings another expectation: coming prosperity.
On the actual eve of the Lunar New Year, Nian is chased away, she explains. “Based on a folk tale, Nian is a monster who comes out only during this time of year. To scare him away, at midnight people step out their doors to light firecrackers. Unfortunately (but understandably), firecrackers have been banned in most of the cities of China,” says Cheng.
Food Reflect Prosperity Expectations
“New Year Eve dinner is a big event for family members,” says Senior Planet trainer Grace Maa (at left). “And of course dumplings (symbolizing gold) and whole fish (savings) are necessary dishes on the table,” says Maa. If enough is saved by the end of the year, the expectation is that one will do even better the following year. There’s even a lucky saying when eating fish: “May you always have more than you need!”
Of course, this being the Chinese New Year, there are dumplings. According to Maa, this tasty item symbolizes gold. For the Year of the Tiger, they’re shaped to look like Chinese silver ingots. Legend has it that the more dumplings one eats during the New Year celebrations, the more money one will make in the coming year.
Cheng notes, “Chinese people celebrate the first 15 days of the lunar new year beginning with dumplings (饺子 jiao zi) and ending with sticky rice balls (元宵, yuan xiao). Both have delicious fillings wrapped inside and symbolize reunion. There are also some other typical holiday food, such as fish, orange, eight-treasure sticky rice pudding – they all rhyme with “abundance”, “luck” or “fortune” in Chinese.” Of course, there are many other treats at this holiday, like “Shrimp Lantern” (at right) – prepared by one of her daughters.
Young and Old
After the celebratory meal, the younger generations wish older members good luck and/or good health. “Some families even have a small ceremony with younger ones kneeling down to their elders,” says Maa.
After receiving the good wishes, older family members distribute red envelopes to the little ones. The envelopes symbolize passing on their own good luck to the younger ones. Children love receiving those bright, red envelopes: they contain money, although in small amounts!
Technology Takes A Celebratory Bow
Has technology changed how Chinese New Year is celebrated? “Definitely!” says Cheng.
“When I was young, people visited family and friends from Day One,” she remembers fondly. “Delicious food and snacks were served nonstop; people brought all sorts of gifts and exchanged warm greetings.” Then came the telephone. “Many visited in person only if necessary. Otherwise, they exchanged greetings over the telephone.”
And today, in the age of the Internet?
“Especially those overseas spend more time celebrating online, relying on video chat platforms to call family and friends” Cheng reports. “Also, there are greeting exchanges on social media through emojis, GIFs, and short videos.”
This is the case even at Senior Planet! “We used SPs Mandarin WeChat group to exchange greetings,” says Cheng.
Photo: Jason Leung for Unsplash