Chinese New Years
Author: Grace Carter
Chinese people around the globe. Many East Asians-Mongolians and Koreans for example-have similar holidays that fall on the same day.
Don't let China's ballooning economy convince you that its citizens are all 18-hour-shifts and no play. Chinese New Year lasts 15 action-packed days, and requires all the stamina of a New Orleans Mardi Gras. For users of the Gregorian calendar, CNY seems to begin on a different day every year, but just like the convoluted pathway of carts at a dim sum joint, there's method to the madness: the festivities commence on the second new moon after the winter solstice. That is, unless there's an intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year, in which case it falls on the third new moon after the Solstice. (Don't stress about how to figure it out, though. This won't occur again until 2033.)
Upcoming Chinese New Years
How to say Happy New Year:
The most common CNY greeting is pronounced "Kung hei fat choy" in Cantonese. It means "Congratulations and be prosperous." Wish your Mandarin speaking friend a "sin nian yu kwai" or "Happy New Year." Then glow with satisfaction as he or she appreciates your language skills, telling you "how bahng ah." ("Wow, that's so cool!)
Chinese New Year is old. Older than your grandmammy's dentures. Older than Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, and maybe even Abraham. It has been called the longest running party ever. Opinions vary regarding the precise date of its nascence, but most scholars agree it began between 3000 and 2000 BC. About.com's Chinese culture expert, Jun Shan, says the celebration is at least as old as the Chinese calendar, which came into being 4699 years ago, thanks to an overachieving Emperor named Huang Ti. In addition to creating the calendar, he standardized Chinese coinage, measures, and calligraphy, brought the bow and arrow to the Chinese army, and unified the feudal system.
Values and traditions:
During the Spring Festival, families, friends and even foes come together to shake off the cobwebs of last year, and woo good luck for the new one. The two-week celebration, steeped in traditional symbolism and superstition, requires endurance, patience (for lengthy conversations with distant relatives), and a flexible stomach lining The party starts the day before New Year's day, with a ritual house cleaning to expunge any lingering bad luck from the previous year, a practice which invariably sends most pre-adolescent Chinese kids scampering to the nearest arcade, to avoid such effective demon-busting activities as cleaning the toilet. The "sweeping of the grounds," as it's known on the mainland, is followed by a feast of many, many courses, shared with pals and relatives. Certain foods are popular because they're homophones. The name for a popular black seaweed dish sounds similar to the Chinese word for "wealth." Likewise, the word for oyster sounds like "good business." Other yummies consumed include sticky rice, dumplings, steamed cake and candied melon.
Fake money to offer to ancestors and gods
Don't do it! New Year's Day taboos:
Giving clocks or watches.