Chinese New Year. Bit behind with this one but better late than never.
Traditionally between 23rd of the final lunar month (January) the Chinese will all partake in customs to prepare for New Year.
- thoroughly cleaning your house and getting rid of anything broken or no longer necessary, this is known as “sweeping the dust”.
- shopping for New Year’s Eve. Party food, decorations and new clothes to be worn that evening are considered necessities.
- enthusiastically decorating your home.
- having a celebratory meal with family. This is largely known as a “reunion dinner”.
The actual date for Chinese New Year changes as it’s based on a traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. It’s something to do with the moon phase and the time of the solar year. I don’t even pretend to understand any of it.
Anyway, when NYE does roll around there are a host of other traditions. The better known customs are:
- giving red envelopes containing “lucky money” to children.
- staying up late to “keep watch over the New Year”.
- listening for the New Year Bell which is believed to bring good fortune.
- setting off fireworks to drive away evil spirits.
It’s also customary for people to exchange gifts. But there are no no’s. It is considered bad luck, and poor taste, to give any of the objects listed below.
- sharp objects – Sharp implies you want to cut off your relationship with them. Eek.
- handkerchiefs – These are traditionally given at funerals, meaning goodbye forever.
- shoes – In Chinese the word for shoes sounds like the word for evil. Enough said.
- cut flowers – Funeral tradition. Oh and yellow chrysanthemums represent death.
- umbrellas – In Chinese the word for umbrella sounds like “breaking up”. Avoid!
- pears – All other fruit is fine but pears are taboo. They symbolise “leaving”.
- black or white objects – White and black are important colours for funerals. Red is considered festive and lucky. If in doubt go red.
- mirrors – In China, mirrors are believed to attract evil spirits.
- clocks – Watches and clocks represent running out of time.
- four of anything (this includes gifts in multiples of four)
I did know about the four thing. The word for the number four in Chinese sounds like the word for death and is therefore considered extremely unlucky. One tourist comment I found on a website said that all Western travellers visiting this particular Chinese hotel were given rooms on the fourth floor because the Chinese refused to use them.
Who knew there were all these rules to follow? Or that there are SO MANY things that symbolise death?!
Anyway, with each Chinese New Year comes a representative animal. There are twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac and each animal has key personality traits. Some animals are more highly regarded than others. For example, in 2012 China experienced a baby boom with couples timing the arrival of their offspring to coincide with Year of the Dragon. The dragon is largely considered to be the strongest of the signs.
- Rat – versatile, resourceful, kind
- Ox – diligent, reliable, determined
- Tiger – brave, adventurous, independent
- Rabbit – gentle, alert, patient
- Dragon – intelligent, ambitious, confident
- Snake – communicative, wise, calm
- Horse – energetic, optimistic, sentimental
- Goat – thoughtful, creative, honest
- Monkey – quick-witted, smart, naughty
- Rooster – observant, frank, courageous
- Dog – loyal, amiable, sincere
- Pig – compassionate, generous, easy-going
2016 is the year of the Monkey! Monkey years are believed to be unlucky for people born in a year of the Monkey. Same goes for every other animal/sign. You’d think it would be the opposite! But fortunate for me… I’m a Snake which isn’t due to come around again until 2025!
If you fancy reading up more detailed outlines about the Chinese zodiac signs, or looking up your own, click HERE