Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gong Hee Fot Choy

Gong Hee Fot Choy – for Mandarin
Kung Hei Fat Choi – for Cantonese

Chinese New Year - often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar - is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. Despite its winter occurrence, in China it is known as "Spring Festival," the literal translation of the Chinese name 春节, owing to the difference between Western and traditional Chinese methods for computing the seasons.  

The start of Chinese New Year changes every year since it is dictated by the lunar calendar. The Gregorian or solar calendar--which is based on the Earth's movement around the sun and has a fixed number of 365 days a year (366 during a leap year)--is the most widely used calendar system in the world and has been the official calendar used in China since 1912.
But in China the lunar calendar is still used to determine traditional holidays like Chinese New Year.  Since the lunar calendar is based on the phases of the moon-- which has a shorter cycle than the sun--Chinese New Year is never on the same day each year, but typically falls somewhere between January 21st and February 20th.
The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year's Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī (除夕) or "Eve of the Passing Year."


Chinese New Year (Nian) lasts two or three days, but the New Year season extends from the middle of the previous year's 12th month to the middle of the 1st month of the New Year. It is a holiday celebrated by Chinese all over the world.

In preparation, the house is given a thorough cleaning-- a sweeping away of any misfortune or bad luck during the year departing to make way for the incoming good luck and good fortune that will surely arrive during the new year. Doors and windows are given new coats of paint, and paper cutouts with the themes of 'happiness,' 'wealth' and 'longevity' are used as decoration around the home. Special flowers and fruits are also often used as symbolic decorations for prosperity and good fortune. Peach blossoms are said to bring long life; good fortune is represented by the kumquat's golden fruits. Offerings of food may also be left at the altar of ancestors.

New Years' Eve is carefully observed, with all members of a family dining together. Supper is a joyous feast, with jiaozi served-- dumplings boiled in water. (The word literally means 'sleep together and have sons,' a traditional good wish greeting for a family.) Fish is also traditionally served (the Chinese character for fish sounds the same as that for 'abundance'.) There is also served a vegetarian dish with a special seaweed called fat choi, a word similar in sound to that for prosperity. Noodles accent the wish for long life.

Every light in the house is supposed to stay lit for the whole night. At midnight, the sky erupts in a colorful display of fireworks and firecrackers. The New Year has arrived!

Early in the morning, after sunrise, the children receive their hong bao (red packets, often containing money) from their parents. Then the family visits door-to-door to exchange New Years greetings-- first to relatives, then to neighbors. In some Chinese neighborhoods, mandarin oranges are also exchanged as offerings of good will and good fortune.

The New Year is a time of reconciliation. Old grudges are set aside, and the atmosphere is marked by warmth and friendliness. The visits continue for several days, marked by a great deal of gift giving. Passersby greet one another in various dialects: Sun Nean Fai Lok and Xin Nain Kuai Le (Happy New Year) or Kung Hey Fat Choi and Gong Xi Fa Cai (May Prosperity Be With You).

Fifteen days after New Years' Day, the celebration's end is marked by the Festival of Lanterns. It is a time for lantern shows and folk dances ... and another reason to feast. Another kind of dumpling is traditionally served-- tang yuan-- sweet rice balls that are stuffed with sweet or spicy fillings.

Chinese New Year is like a combination of Thanksgiving and Easter that celebrates the sacredness of the family and presents a time of renewal. Food, naturally, is central to the New Year. But unlike the reminiscent Thanksgiving turkey, everything eaten during the two-week Chinese tradition — which begins in 2000 on February 5 — holds auspicious meaning and is believed to directly affect one's fortune for the coming year.

One tasty ritual during the New Year period is eating cake, both sweet and savory. After steaming, they are cooled, cut into bite-size pieces, pan-fried, and served with oyster sauce. Cake is eaten for breakfast and whenever visitors stop by. What's the fortuitous significance? Rice flour, which symbolizes cohesiveness; the round shape, which represents unity of family; and the slight rising of the cakes, which indicates rising fortune.


New Year's Cake
Called Neen Gow in Chinese, this chewy cake contains glutinous rice flour to symbolize cohesiveness and peen tong brown candy to represent the sweetness of life. It is the most important cake of the holiday and is served only during the New Year celebration.

Turnip Cake
Law Bock Gow is served on New Year's Day as a symbol of prosperity and rising fortune. You can also find this savory cake on the menu throughout the year in dim sum houses. The texture of savory cakes such as this and Taro Root Cake is similar to polenta.

Taro Root Cake
The savory Woo Tul Gow is often served in dim sum houses, but is unsurpassed when made at home using generous amounts of what Young calls "the good stuff": Chinese dried scallops, bacon, and mushrooms.

Red Lucky Money Envelopes
It is Chinese tradition to wish family and friends "Gung Hay Fat Choy" with red envelopes containing gifts of money.

Fireworks and Family Feasts
At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children "lucky money" in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits. The Lantern Festival


2011 is the year of the RABBIT. Rabbit people are happy, gifted, refined and ambitious. They also know how to draw others' attention and are great mixers in any social gatherings. The typical Rabbit will be submissive, even humble, in a constant effort to avoid confrontations. Rabbit is an excellent judge of character, with an instinct for recognizing sincerity in others and an almost uncanny ability for sensing falsehood. Hare people make wonderful receptionists, publicists, stockbrokers, and pharmacists.

Ideal Partner: Ram, Dog, Boar

Rabbit years: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

The Rabbit is a symbol for mercy, elegance, and worship of beauty. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are kind, loving persons, and dislike any hostile act. They give others an impression of being frail-looking because of their gentle appearance. But, in fact they are strong-minded and have strong wills. They pursue their ideals all their lives in a precise and orderly way. They do things slowly and deliberately because of their cautious characters. 

 There is no need to worry about their lives. They are nimble, clever and good at avoiding harm to themselves. They are talented and like artistic ventures, such as painting and music and are generally quite present in these worlds. They are also very hospitable, good hosts and warm-hearted companions. They never embrace others in public places. They know the art of saving face and giving consideration to the interests of both sides.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are apt to be sensitive to ailments and to have bad allergies. Stress or conflict will detriment their health. Exercise could take off unnecessary stress and strengthen their physical condition. They have to learn to incorporate more action into their everyday routines.

They will become depressed and withdrawn if their homes do not consist of beautiful possessions that make them comfortable. Their homes and offices usually are clutter-free. They have really good communication skills and are best utilized in positions of management. They make great teachers and counselors because they are so diplomatic and well-organized. They can also make great painters or musicians due to their sense of beauty and their love of creativity.

Rabbit people are usually relatively careful when it comes to their finances. They use much of their money for possessions such as their homes, cars or furniture. They love hunting for antiques, arts and crafts and will tend to make sound investments in these types of things.