CHINESE NEW YEAR’S EVE
February 2, 2011
Here are some fabulous ways to celebrate Chinese New Year’s Eve on February 2, 2011!
1. Prepare your Lucky Red Envelopes called “Lai See”, “Hong Bao” or “Ang Pow”. These are lucky money packets filled with crisp new uncirculated bills, shiny gold coins, chocolate coins or Feng Shui coins. The number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for "wealth"), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes. They are considered incredibly lucky to give and receive. The more you give out, the more luck comes back to you! You can send them to your Dharma Teachers, Helpful People, clients, Feng Shui consultants (!)
2. Make your “Money Tree” (see the how-to on this blog!)
3. Make your “Wishing Tree” (see the how-to on this blog!)
4. In the afternoon around 3:00pm it’s time to say good-bye to the current year by paying tribute to the Deities and Ancestors at the family altar. One offers plates of cooked fish, duck, pork and/or chicken; oranges; sweet glutinous rice cakes; tea and wine; and candy. Light candles, 3 sticks of incense and burn heaven money. The family prays together. When the incense has burned half way down, the gods are considered to have had their meal—you get to now eat the rest!
5. Turn every light on in the house all night to scare away any misfortunate chi of ghosts and sprits.
6. Open the front door (traditionally, all night long!) to let the old year out.
7. Have a Reunion Dinner with the whole family and share a big feast. An empty chair and place setting represents someone not there. Family members should be well dressed and the women should wear their jewels to signify a continuity of good fortune. No one should look tired, worn out or unhappy. There should be an abundance of food on the table and everyone should have a least two helpings for good luck! Serve these symbolic foods such as
- Lettuce Rolls (Cantonese word for lettuce sounds like “rising fortune”); dumplings and spring rolls (their shape is similar to ingots or gold bars); leafy mustard greens for long life; tangerines (sounds like “luck”); oranges (sounds like “wealth”); pomelos (the Chinese word for pomelo sounds like the word for "to have"); black seaweed to increase wealth; egg dishes for rebirth; candy and sweet foods for a year full of sweetness; long, uncut noodles for longevity.
- The word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. As a result, on New Year's Eve it is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.
- Sticky Rice Cake symbolizes a rich, sweet life, while the layers symbolize rising abundance for the coming year. Finally, the round shape signifies family reunion.
8. Now it’s time to keep vigil for the Lunar New Year! The sound of sleepiness in Chinese is similar to “trouble”. Not going to sleep means no trouble for the coming year!
- Some will stay up watching Chinese New Year television specials or playing mah-jong till midnight.
- There is an exchanging of red envelopes with family members.
- Kids stay up all night as believed their parents would live a longer life
- Children will put all Red Envelopes under the pillow when sleeping. They said children can sleep well without bad dream and become richer next year.
- The kids are promised the arrival of the Wealth God, Tsai Shen Yeh, and while they sleep parents slip a red envelope with money under their pillow signifying his visit.
- Many will choose to gather outside the temple after reunion dinner, as everyone wants to be the first person of the year to be blessed by the God in the incense stick race. One the first second of the Hour of the Rat (11:00pm), as soon as the temple's main gate is opened, people will dash into the temple to insert the incense stick into the incense container. The winner gets a big red envelope and will be very lucky in the coming year.
9. At the stroke of Midnight:
- Set off firecrackers accompanied by gongs, drums and cymbals, to start off New Year with a “bang” and drive away the old chi of last year and any negative spirits.
- If you haven’t already, open all doors and windows to allow the old year to leave and bring in the good luck of the New Year!
- Light red candles and incense
- The young ones should bow and pay respects to their elders.
- Or go to the temple praying to bless the whole family for another prosperous New Year. The first to place incense sticks in the censer at temple will be especially blessed.
I sincerely wish you and your loved ones an extraordinary New Year!