Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Seeing Red into the Chinese New Year

I hope you're all having a fantastique week so far!

Tomorrow marks a very important day in the calendar for me and many others as we'll be celebrating Chinese New Year-the year of the rabbit. It's around this time of year that I wish I was with my extended family in Hong Kong, as the city literally bursts with vibrant tones of red, a very lucky colour and gold, which symbolizes wealth and happiness. There are parades galore, a crazed vibrancy in the flower markets and stunning fireworks over Victoria Harbour.

Most visit the temples, one of the more well known temples such as Wong Tai Sin gets rammed on New Years day, there are people running around with joss sticks (incense sticks) lit and there's ash flying everywhere, whilst they rush to make their offerings & pay respect to the Gods. It's quite a sight actually. I only experienced this once when I went with my late Grandmother one year as a teen and I almost got poked in the eye! Scary stuff.

When I was a kid I never understood why Chinese New Year took place on different dates every year until someone explained that this was because the Chinese calendar is based on a combination of the lunar and solar movements, the lunar cycle working to 29.5 days.
Therefore, because of this cyclical dating, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between mid/late January to the mid/late February. A complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five cycles of 12 years with
each of the twelve years named after an animal.

In true Chinese legend, it is believed that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart."

What year you were born in?

The New Year is a time for family and a frenzy of present giving, usually in the form of small red envelopes containing money, called 'lai see'. This is mainly a tradition where seniors give to juniors or married couple to single friends! I wonder how my newly wed chums are going to deal with this one!

There is usually a sea of superstitions and customs surrounding Chinese New Year, personally I like the wearing of new shoes (slippers) on New Years Day, but first one must kick/walk around the house, so as to ward off bad luck and also step on the people who gossip about you. For more info on customs and traditions click here if you're interested.
Wondering what the year of the Rabbit will mean for us? Check it out here.

So, here's to a fabulous Chinese New Year!
Gung Hei Fat Choy.

Images 1, 2 via The Cherry Blossom Girl, 3, via here, 4 - me, 5 via Vogue, Italia
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