The Spring Festival, which is another name for the Chinese/Lunar New Year, is celebrated with everything from hampers to the customary ‘Hongbao’ packets. Being a centuries-old festival, it pays homage to deities and ancestors. ‘Guo Nian’ in Chinese is commonly used to refer to the act of celebrating the New Year.
How Chinese New Year Started
Legend has it that the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast, called the Nian, which would eat villagers. To ward off the beast, the villagers would put food in front of their doors every New Year. One day, a villager decided to avenge all the harm done. He was visited by a God, who told him to use red paper and burn firecrackers. The villagers understood that the Nian was afraid of red color and noise, and started using red décor and crackers to repel it. After this, the Nian never came into the village again.
Year of the Fire Monkey
This year happens to be the Year of the Fire Monkey. The Monkey is one of the symbolical animals which has an affinity with the ninth of the Twelve Terrestrial Branches, called the ‘Shen Branch’. This symbolizes immense curiosity and creative energy, representing a mind free from inhibitions and guilt.
Things to Avoid
There are certain taboos which are applied almost a month before the festival, and continue till it ends. These are:
- Avoid cleaning or washing hair for the 1st 3 days as this will wash away good luck
- A cry of a child is considered bad luck
- Don’t beg or ask for loans
A customary reunion dinner takes place on New Year’s Eve, which often includes meat dishes as well as a communal hotpot. Lunar New Year gifts are given and a number of foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness and good fortune. Many Chinese food names are homophones for words which mean good things, such as abalone (good fortune), mushrooms (seizing opportunities), dates (success), and mandarin oranges (luck).
Significance of Gift Exchange
Apart from red envelopes, gifts are also exchanged between friends and relatives during this auspicious festival. Such presents can include fruits, cakes, biscuits, candies, and tea. Gift baskets that are red in color signify good fortune and joy, whereas hampers designed like towers stand for prosperity. It should also be noted that certain gifts are not to be given, and include:
- White and Black Items
- Articles which indicate time running out, such as Clocks
- Sharp objects such as Knives
- Any homophones for undesirable topics
With CNY festivities on in full swing in Singapore, we at D’Petals wish everyone a Prosperous and Successful New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!