Chinese New Year: Happy 4704
Gung Hay Fat Choy!
This is the Chinese New Year celebratory greeting, and translates to “Best wishes and congratulations. Have a prosperous and good new year.”
This year Chinese New Year falls on Jan. 29, kicking off the Year of the Dog. Chinese New Year starts with the new moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later.
The celebration of the new year in Chinese culture has held major importance since ancient times. It is a time for Chinese to acknowledge the passing of another year and mark a fresh beginning. During this celebration it is important to eat well, follow tradition, and celebrate luck and fortune.
The new year is also a superstitious time for the Chinese. References to the past year are avoided. Young and old watch their manners and their mouths, because any negativity can bring bad luck for the next year.
There are three ways to name a Chinese year: by an animal; by its formal name – this year is the year of bingxu; and by the Chinese calendar – this year is Lunar Year 4704.
Westerners are most familiar with the 12 animals that represent Chinese years, the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. With this system, year names are recycled every 12 years. The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The Chinese insert an extra month once every few years, much like we add an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.
Unlike the American and worldwide traditions of ringing in the new year with friends and champagne, Chinese New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family affair with a communal feast called weilu, or “surrounding the stove,” symbolizing family unity.
While some Chinese people today may not believe in the superstitions of the new year, many families still practice traditional customs. These traditions are practiced because most families realize that they provide continuity with the past and provide the family with an identity.
Before New Year’s Day, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines, and a candy tray.
Although there are no celebrations announced for the South Shore, take a trip to the North Shore and enjoy some Chinese specialties. In Truckee, Dragonfly Cuisine at 10118 Donner Pass Road will host its third annual Chinese New Year’s celebration. They hand out ornaments and paper dragons and serve a three course meal for $40. Gung Hay Fat Choy!
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