With all the preparations behind us, New Year's Day finally arrives and the Chinese New Year celebrations begin.
Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái !!!
Family and friends visit each other. Traditional New Year's gifts are sweets and snacks,
oranges and tangerines which are a symbol of prosperity.
At home, the feast has been prepared. The entire family enjoys the big dinner on New
Year's Day with all the traditional foods for good fortune and luck. Children get their Lucky Red Envelopes and when night comes,
the firecrackers await.
New Year's Greeting
The most common way to wish someone a Happy New Year is Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái in Mandarin or Gong Hey Fat Choy in Cantonese.
The characters are the same, reading right to left:
Gōng Xǐ - are good wishes or congratulations
Fā Cái - to become rich, acquire wealth
So together it means "best and prosperous wishes" for the coming year.
Here are some more common Chinese New Year Greetings and phrases you will hear time and again during the festivities.
Red "Lucky" Envelopes
Kids learn promptly the significance of the Chinese Red Envelope since
on New Year's Day, they are given the shiny things with money inside!
And of course they quickly learn the words for red envelope... in all the dialects they can manage: "hong pao" in mandarin, "lai see" in cantonese.
You get hong paos from grandma, grandpa, uncles, aunts, mom and dad of course, so by the end of the festivities,
you can accumulate a little booty of your own!
Here's more on the Chinese New Year Red Envelope tradition.
And no Chinese New Year celebration would be complete without:
The New Year's Banquet
On this very important day, families will gather with some members having travelled from far to come and share in the joy of the New Year.
This meal is a VERY big deal. It is like
Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner. And of course, mom has spent a good two weeks preparing for it, so as you can expect, everything on that
table will be spectacular, succulent, plentiful and exquisite.
Besides a gathering with loved ones, the New Year's meal has come to symbolize the hope for a prosperous and abundant new year.
What kind of dishes are served for the New Year's meal? This is when special foods are prepared, this is the time to pull out all the stops.
Each family will have their own
"special" dishes that are traditionally served at this time, just like some families serve ham for Christmas, some prefer turkey, and some perhaps
a lamb roast, Chinese also enjoy a great variety of dishes.
At home, we enjoy preparing a Hot Pot, which includes many of the "lucky foods" (see below)
for New Year's good fortune, and is also the kind of
meal that you can just linger for hours to enjoy.
These are some of the traditional chinese new year foods which you can expect to see during
the festivities which also have a special meaning to Chinese:
Shrimp For Abundance
Whole Fish For Togetherness
Chicken For Wealth
Soup for "everything better than last year"
Long Green vegetables for a green year and good harvest
Looong noodles for long life, do not cut them!
Abalone for Good Fortune, Mushrooms for Longevity
Sweet Rice Cakes for more wealth every year
Steamed buns and dumplings for good luck
Oranges for Wealth
Apples for Peace
Tangerines for Good Fortune
Firecrackers are an important part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. They are lit in front of houses and stores, so that the evil spirits are scared away from the loud noises.
At parades, lion dances and dragon dances, firecrackers are lit up so they drive away the wicked beings and the "bad luck".
Another legend is that the firecrackers will awake the dragon that will bring the spring rain for an auspicious beginning of the growing season.
Whatever the origins, Firecrackers provide the happy ending to the parades and dances and are a must for the joyous atmosphere of the celebrations!
Beyond the noisy kind, paper firecrackers make shiny and bright decorations and you will often see them hanging everywhere during the holiday season.
Banquet and firecrackers at home might be over, but the celebrations continue... for the next fifteen days!
There is much going on all over
town. An important part of the Chinese New Year celebration are the many Dragon Parades and Lion Dances popping all around... at restaurants, shops,
by temples, shopping centers... and the many Chinese New Year fairs, truly colorful events.
Then finally, on the 15th day of the new moon, the festivities come to a close with the Lantern Festival, the perfect ending to this joyous season.
... And how the Lion Dance is different from the Dragon Dance Read more...
You can decorate easily with traditional or battery-operated lanterns, paper cuttings, lucky coins and banners to add a splash to the celebrations!
More Chinese New Year Traditions and Celebrations
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