Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Chinese New Year - Traditions & Customs

5 more days to Chinese New Year (aka CNY). I am so excited! In this post, I'm going to write more on the traditions and customs of CNY.

Ok, now according to this website, the traditions & customs over in Hong Kong are:

Shopping Shutdown
The official holidays for Lunar New Year in 2010 are February, 14th and the 15th, with most shops shut for the first two days, many independent retailers will close there doors for the full week.
(Here in Malaysia: Most of the shopping malls and retailers here will still be open. This is because we're living in a multi-racial country, so although most Chinese owned business will be closed for the first 2 days of the CNY, there will be some that are still open for business cos they can be managed by their staff of other races and some who are not going anywhere for CNY celebrations. FYI, here in Malaysia, if you work through public holidays, you get double/triple pay and some will get annual leave replacement as well!)

(Image from http://ipohchai.com/chinese-new-year-coming.php)

City in Flower
From skyscraper sized neon signs, to the red ribbons draped throughout the streets, perhaps the brightest and best colors come from Hong Kong’s flower markets.
(Here in Malaysia: Well, shopping malls and buildings here do put up some decorations but they are not big scaled like what you can see in Hong Kong. Probably due to economy crisis these few years ;p)

Temple Time
One of the more solemn duties of the Chinese New Year celebrations is for families to drop into their local temples. Chinese New year is riddled with superstitions and Hong Kongers believe that a stop at the temple is the perfect way to curry favor with the deities inside and bring luck for the year ahead. Traditionally, families pop into the temple on the mornings of the first and second days. Even if you don’t want to bag some luck for the year to come, the temples are one of the best places to see Chinese New Year in action.
(Here in Malaysia: I'm sorry I don't know this much... as a Christian, we don't go to temples but I do know some of my other religions friends who will go to temple for the CNY celebrations.)

Packet Presents
Chinese New year sees the city go into a frenzy of present giving, from workers receiving their bonuses to the handing out of Hong Kong’s iconic Lai See packets.
(Here in Malaysia: Oh yes!! I blogged about this just a post before this... red packets are a must during CNY!!!!)

(Image from http://www.best-of-langkawi.com/culture/42-culture-festivals-celebrations-chinese)

Meet the Family
While the holiday may revolve around family, day three of Chinese New Year is not the day to see the in-laws. Known as red mouth day, any encounters with family will be rewarded with barroom brawls, as the day in famous for arguments and quarrels.
(Here in Malaysia: Oh really? I didn't know about that... but I'm staying with my mother in law, so does this means I have to avoid seeing her on the 3rd day of CNY??!!! :P Superstitions strikes again!)

Now let's see what this website says about the traditions of CNY:

The Red Packets ("HongBao" or "LiShi")
On the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day, parents will give red packets containing money gifts to their siblings as a form of blessing; the children then place the red packet underneath their pillows when they sleep. This tradition is derived from the legend of "Nian", where the children are given red papers to protect themselves if they ever come into contact with the beast.

Chinese people will greet each other with pleasant words like 'Happy New Year', 'Good Fortune', etc during Chinese New Year. The phrase "GongXi" (or "Gong Hei" in Cantonese) means 'Congratulations', derived from the legend of "Nian", congratulating each other to have escaped the harm of the beast.
(Here in Malaysia: Yeah... I do remember having to memorise all those CNY greetings and wishing all the elders before getting my does of red packets from them when I was young...)

(Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chinese_New_Year_Lion_Dance.jpg)

Lion Dance
The most spectacular event of the Chinese New Year festivities must surely be the Lion Dance. Lion dances take place throughout the first few days of the Chinese New Year, and bring good luck to the households or businesses which they visit.

Business owners usually appoint performers to perform lion dance in their premises to chase away bad spirits and bring in good spirits.
(Here in Malaysia: Yeah, we get this a lot around big companies and shopping malls during CNY...)

(Image from http://www.aboutcny.co.uk/custom.html)

Dragon Dance
The Dragon Dance, also called "Dragon Lantern Dance", is a traditional performance of the Han people. Dragon Dance is performed in almost all special festivals. Dragon Dance originated from Han Dynasty and the tradition never fades. It was originally performed to please the ancestors and to plead for enough rain for crops, it has gradually become a cultural activity.
(Here in Malaysia: I don't recall seeing dragon dance here in Malaysia... hmmm....)

Food for Chinese New Year
Chinese people are very superstitious in many ways, the superstitions played major parts in forming the Chinese customs. During Chinese New Year, cuisines are carefully selected and named to only carry good meanings.
(Here in Malaysia: Yeah! I remember all those dishes which they named it so that it sounds oh-so-glorious and good... )

The sound of firecrackers chases away evil spirits. Due to safety reasons, most countries had banned the burning of fire crackers except during specific occasions.
(Here in Malaysia: Yes, even Malaysia they banned the practise of burning firecrackers... but occassionally you do hear the sounds of it...)

You can also read the following for more on:
* CNY details on each day (from day 1 to 15)
* CNY Taboos & Superstitions
* CNY Traditional Foods

Until then... happy countdown to Chinese New Year! :D


5thsister said...

Thank you for the cultural lesson! I enjoyed reading about these traditions.

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Polly!

Glad you enjoyed it! :)

Brook said...

Hi there. I'm thankful for your post. My husband and I had our first date on Chinese New Year in Singapore (back in 1997) so this holiday has a special (sentimental) place in my heart. Love the post. :)

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Brook!

Oh wow! A CNY date in Singapore?! Nice! Glad you like the post! :D

thirdy_smom said...

hi jenny!

kong hei fat choi! (i hope i spelled that right hehe). anyway, we have our own chinese community here in manila and boy--as early as feb 1 they are already decorating their places! I'd love to see the dragon dance again and eat more tikoy! hehehe love the post! :)

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Anne!

Kong Hei Fat Choi! You got it right! (Actually they come in lots of different spelling and pronunciation since we're living in a multi-racial country)

I have only seen dragon dance on TV (and in other countries)

Btw, what's a tikoy?

thirdy_smom said...

tikoy is the sticky chinese rice pudding thinly sliced, dipped in egg, then fried :) i love those

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Sounds like this 'nian gao' dish - a sticky I don't know made of what fried in oil... ;p


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