The Year of the Tiger is Here!
By: Jacob He and Emma Leong
Gong Hei Fat Choi! Fun Fact: Did you know that the phrase “Gong Hei Fat Choi” doesn’t really mean “Happy New Year” in Chinese? We learned that from Mrs. Paul’s Chinese New Year display, right here, in our school’s library! It features several symbolic pieces often seen in Chinese culture and Chinese New Year festivities. Some items include red envelopes, dragons and signs of longevity, happiness and love. Although many countries around Asia celebrate the Lunar New Year, in this article, we’ll mainly focus on how Chinese people welcome in the new year.
According to ancient Chinese tales and legends, the tradition of Chinese New Year began long ago when a mythical beast named Nian ascended from the darkness and onto the land. Nian went on to wreak havoc upon villages by destroying houses. In addition to the destruction, Nian also hunted people and animals. Terrified, the villagers worked hard to discover what Nian was afraid of, which they believed would help them take it down. Eventually, they found that Nian was afraid of the colour red, loud noises, and fire. With their newfound knowledge, they hung red signs containing blessings and wishes for the new year on the front of their houses. They also lit loud and bright firecrackers and hung lanterns outside their homes to fend themselves and their families from the beast. To this day, millions of people worldwide continue to celebrate this holiday and still partake in similar traditions. Similar to many other holidays around the world, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, many unique practices are observed during Chinese New Year.
One of the most well-known traditions is the giving of hongbao (red envelopes). These envelopes contain money and are given to children by married adults as a sign of blessing them with a peaceful New Year. Young children and grandkids usually send their best wishes to their parents and grandparents on Chinese New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. In exchange, grandparents and parents give red envelopes filled with money to their children and grandkids, wishing them good luck in the new year. Similar to traditions, Chinese people believe what they eat may also benefit their lives during the new year. Some of the symbolic and traditional dishes include:
Dumplings- Longevity and Wealth
Mandarin Oranges- Riches in your life
Fish- Also has the meaning of surplus and fortune
Rice Balls- Family reunions and happiness
Nian Gao- Associated with greater achievements year after year; improving in life.
You will often find these delicacies at Chinese New Year festivals. Chinese communities around the globe hold Lunar New Year Festivals, as they believe a good start to the year will lead to a prosperous and lucky year. Chinese New Year celebrations begin on the very first day of the lunar calendar, which usually falls somewhere around the end of January or the beginning of February. In reality, the first traditions begin a week before the new year. This week is critical for deep cleaning the house and all belongings. Deep cleaning is believed to “sweep away” the bad luck and misfortune of the new year and remove the bad luck from the previous year. Houses are also heavily decorated with the colour red. In addition, red is often seen around festivals (Lanterns, decorations, couplets) because red represents good fortune and happiness.
Welcoming prosperity and good luck into the new year sounds great, right? Becoming happy, healthy, and wealthy sounds like a dream. But to insure that dream, Chinese superstition believes you should not do certain things around the new year. For example, you cannot shower or clean around the house on the day of the new year, as it is believed that you are “washing away” the good luck of the year. Another superstition is not borrowing money from others, as it is considered an unlucky omen, leading to economic loss. Lastly, you are not allowed to take medicines or cry on the first day of the new year. If you do this, you would be bringing misfortunes, such as illness, upon yourself and your family for the whole year.
Along with performing specific actions that may bring misfortune amongst families, Chinese people believe that certain years are unlucky for particular zodiac signs. However, let’s focus on the present. Currently, we are in the year of 2022, meaning it is now the year of the tiger. According to ChineseNewYear.net, people born in the year of the tiger are fiercely independent and have higher senses of self-esteem They prefer to work alone and are not particularly social. Tigers are most likely naturally positive and energetic, and they appear to have boundless energy, particularly at work. The main charms of Tigers include their energizing presence and piercing eyes. Their vibrancy is immediately apparent to anyone who looks at them, and people are drawn to this larger-than-life characteristic in them. Some of the past and future “tiger years” include 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, and 2034. Thus meaning there is one every 12 years.
During Chinese New Year, some other popular phrases you might hear are:
-Gong hei fat choi, meaning “wishing you great happiness and prosperity in the new year” (cantonese)
-XÄ«n nián kuài lè, meaning “Happy New Year” (mandarin)
-H jiÄ huÄn lè, meaning “Happiness for the Family” (mandarin)
-Jí xiáng rú yì, meaning “Good luck and life according to your wishes” (mandarin)
Chinese New Year is a significant event celebrated worldwide, and everything from the traditions down to the superstitions are important to define the culture and people. The Chinese people practice lots of customs and work hard to ensure a prosperous and lucky year. If you would like to broaden your knowledge and learn more, be sure to swing by the library and take a deeper dive into the diverse Chinese culture. XÄ«n nián kuài lè, Sabres!
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