“According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian or “Year” in Chinese. Nian would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, the Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjunlaozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjunlaozu’s mount”
This Monday, January 26th marks the first day of the Celebration of The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar or Gregorian New Year. The Chinese New Year starts every year on the first New Moon and the celebration lasts for fifteen days, commencing on the first Full Moon of the New Year. This year celebrates the Year of the Ox. Each year is represented by its own animal; a Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Dog, Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Sheep Rooster or a Pig. For babies born in the year of the ox, some of the traits they can expect to have include: Dependable, calm, methodical, patient, hardworking, ambitious, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious. Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.
Starting on the first New Moon of the year, the Chinese celebrate a different way each day. The first day of The Chinese New Year is usually kicked off with a Lion Dance, which is meant to scare off the evil spirits and clear the way for a happy new year to come. Throughout the fifteen days families visit their extended family, pay their respects to their elders, have gatherings with customary meals, exchange hong bao’s (small red envelopes filled with money) & gifts, clean their houses to make room for good luck in the the new, wear red and decorate their houses with fresh flowers. On the last day of the festivities there is a lantern parade which is meant to guide the wayward spirits home. All these things symbolize a fresh start and help to usher in good luck, good fortune and happiness in the new year.
Some other superstitions practiced over Chinese New Year include:
Opening your doors and windows at the stroke of midnight on the first day of the new year to let the old year out and to let in the new.
Shooting off firecrackers to welcome in the new year.
It is said to be bad luck to wash your hair on New Year’s Day as it would wash away good luck.
Your house should not be cleaned on New Year’s Day, as you would sweep out the good luck, therefore it is customary to have a clean house prior to the festitivites.
All debts should be paid, negative attitudes and crying should be avoided as it will set the tone for the whole year.
If you live in or around the Portland, Oregon area there will be lots of Chinese New Year festivities going on for the next couple of weeks in Old Town, Chinatown. The Chinese Gardens will be hosting a variety of events, some of which include, fortune telling, live music, calligraphy demos, storytelling, lantern making and the lists goes on and on. The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine is also hosting a lecture on site January 27th, on New Perspective’s in Health, so if you are in town I highly recommend you check out everything that’s going on downtown!
It is said that the attitude and appearance you express on New Year’s Day will set the tone for your year, so keep that twinkle in your eye, a kick in your step and I wish you good luck, health and happiness in this coming year! Guònián Hǎo! (Happy New Year)!