This year marks my first Chinese New Year celebration with Quin. To celebrate, here are some fun facts.
To start with: unlike holidays such as Christmas, which follows the Gregorian calendar and therefore always falls on the 25th of every year. The date of Chinese New Year varies between January 21st and February 20th. This is because the festival is based on the Chinese Lunar calendar that is associated with the movement of the moon. Typically, the festivities last for roughly 23 days with most people going back to work after 7.
Kung Hei Fat Choy
There are several ways to greet someone celebrating including a commonly known one in Cantonese: Kung Hei Fat Choy. But beware: this is actually more of a wish for prosperity to the person you greet it to, rather than ‘happy new year’ which many people mistake it as. Here are few other greetings, in Mandarin:
新年快乐 (Xīn nián kuài lè) which loosely translates to happy new year
新年好 (Xīn nián hǎo) which also means happy new year, but reads as ‘new year good’ when directly translated
It’s not just a rat, it’s a gold rat
Every year in the Chinese Lunar calendar is represented by a zodiac (shengxiao) on top of the type of element this zodiac is. For example, for 2020 we’ll be celebrating the year of the Gold Rat. In total, there are 12 zodiac signs including the: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. You may have heard of (one of many) legendary tales where the Jade Emperor holds a great race and ordered that the twelve animals who arrived would be designated as calendar signs. Of which, the rat won by asking the Ox for a lift. There are also many tales explaining why the cat was left out, with some speculating that the rat had forgotten to wake it up from a nap.
A gold rat, however, is determined by the Chinese element theory where each zodiac sign is associated with one of 5 earth elements including wood, fire, earth, gold and water. In a nutshell? Your element with months of the Chinese solar calendar.
What not to gift
There are a few things in particular to avoid, especially when exchanging gifts with someone celebrating. This includes sharp objects (they’re a sign of cutting relationships), books (which means to lose), 4 of anything (4 sounds like death in Chinese), pears (usually used as gifts in funerals), clocks (symbolising parting), mirrors (a sign of ghosts), umbrellas (generally bad luck), handkerchiefs (a sign of farewell), black or white objects in general (typically for funerals).
Otherwise called yi mien is a dish typically at the center of a celebration. Legend dates this noodle dish back to the Tang Dynasty with its superbly long noodle length symbolising longevity and tells of its additional properties as prosperity and good luck. In addition to noodles, you’ll often find fish, Chinese dumplings and glutinous rice cakes.
With so many activities and traditions planned around this celebration, whatever you get up to- enjoy and have a prosperous new year.