Tomorrow will be a big day for many people around the world. Children will have time off from school to celebrate and the adults will be busy preparing a feast and handing out red envelopes. It will also be a day filled with celebration and family, a day filled with cheer and many wishes of wealth and good fortune. After a year of waiting, the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays will finally arrive: Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year.
A traditional New Year feast is usually composed of 10 dishes, symbolizing prosperity and completeness. Chicken, eggs, fish, and meat are only a few of the components in the large variety of dishes. According to tradition however, on the day of the feast, the fish, though cooked, is not to be eaten. This is to symbolize frugalness and having the ability to set aside for the New Year.
Another tradition is the giving away of red envelopes from parents to children, adults to elders, and from the married to the unmarried, no matter what age. The envelopes are filled with money and the red on the envelope is used as a symbol of good luck. The actual amount within the envelope varies, though the amount is usually initiated with an even number, mainly because an odd amount would usually be given to people during a funeral.
There are many more traditions and festivities, other than the ones mentioned above, which will help make tomorrow a day where families come together for celebration.
Lastly, today will be the last day in the year of the pig. And because the pig is the last of the 12 animals on the Chinese Zodiac, the year of the rat begins tomorrow. It will also be the start of a new cycle for the next 12 years, since the Chinese Zodiac is comprised of 12 animals: the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Lamb, the Monkey, the Chicken, the Dog, and the Pig.
Like the Chinese say, “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” which translates into: best wishes and congratulations. Even if you don’t celebrate the lunar year, we hope you have a prosperous and good year!
This article was written by Angie Yeh. It was published in the Temple City Voice on February 6, 2008.