January 26, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Gung Hay Fat Choy means "Best wishes and Congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year." Chinese New Year marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It is a time for family reunions, for honoring ancestors and for thanking the gods for their blessings.

2009 is the year of the Ox. People born in the Year of the Ox are patient, speak little, and inspire confidence in others. They tend, however, to be eccentric, and bigoted, and they anger easily. They have fierce tempers and although they speak little, when they do they are quite eloquent. Generally easy-going, they can be remarkably stubborn, and they hate to fail or be opposed. They are most compatible with Snake, Rooster, and Rat people.

Families make great preparations for this special celebration. Before the new year, families settle debts and buy new clothes. The house is cleaned and food is prepared. Homes are filled with flowers and fruit. Oranges, tangerines, and pomeloes are picked and displayed . The colors symbolize good luck and joy.

Blossoms symbolize longevity and courage. Some Chinese believe that if flowers blossom on New Year's Day good fortune will be theirs for the next year. Candy trays of candied melon, coconut, lotus seed and watermelon seed are offered. They signify growth, good health, abundance and togetherness.

Scrolls or couplets are hung on walls or doorways to carry messages of good health, luck, long life, prosperity, and happiness. A popular one reads "May everything be according to your wishes".
Children behave impeccably because they are warned that what happens the first day of the year may decide events for the coming year. Everyone takes care to say and do the right things and think good thoughts.

On the seventh day of the New Year everyone adds a year to their age no matter when they were born. In traditional China individual birthdays were not considered as important as this New Year's date.

Ending the old year and beginning the new year with the family is very important. The New Year's dinner menu must include a Vegetarian Monk's dish, a fish, pork, beef, and vegetables. The family is careful to leave the heads, feet, and tails untouched in the serving dishes. Although they are not necessarily eaten, these extremities are symbolic of the "whole" and thus, represent an abundant food supply for the coming year.

Grownups line up at local banks to get fresh, crisp money to fill the red envelopes called "hong bao" to give to young, unmarried children for good luck.

In Chinese mythology lions are used to help chase away evil spirits and bring good luck. They use the lions to celebrate happy occasions and new beginnings, such as weddings, Chinese New Year's, special occasions, and the opening of new stores and businesses. The Chinese people feed the lions lucky foods of lettuce and tangerines and strings of lucky money. In turn, the lions help bring good fortune and chase away evil spirits. It takes years to learn the dance of the lion. Students attend local Kung Fu studios to condition their bodies, to learn the movements, and to play the rhythm drums and cymbals.

The Chinese dragon is the most sacred animal; it symbolizes strength and goodness. The dragon appears at the end of the Chinese New Years parade to wish everyone peace, prosperity and good luck. He is called Gum Loong, meaning Golden Dragon. The dragon is said to have the head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a rabbit, ears of a cow, neck of a serpent, belly of a frog, scales of a carp and talons of a hawk.

Happy Year of the Ox

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