Want to be lucky for the rest of the year? Here’s how.
Almost everyone knows that the Chinese stick to a lot of rituals. Just as much as Filipinos follow their pamahiin (local superstitions), Chinoys (Chinese-Filipinos) also believe in using various objects, which not only set a festive mood during the new year celebration, but more importantly, to help bring in luck for the whole year.
Good Fortune Has a Color
In preparation for the Chinese New Year (also called the Spring Festival), the Chinese clean up their homes to symbolically sweep away the bad luck of the past year. They also buy flowers like plum blossoms, kumquats, narcissus, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers as offerings during worship.
Choosing a color is very important during the CNY. Red has always been a popular choice. Along with loud firecrackers, wearing red clothes is also believed to drive away the Nian, a mountain-dwelling mythological beast that devours humans.
To scare off other evil spirits, the Chinese also adorn their main door and windows with red diamond-shaped paper painted with the popular characters for spring, luck, abundance, safety, and wealth. For those who want to get rich and live for more than a century, a hundred coins tied together by red strings will do the trick.
The to-do list doesn’t end there. There are a few objects that must be at hand and certain rituals that must be observed during the 15-day long Chinese New Year. (The first day can fall between 21 January and 21 February.)
Day one is dedicated to the gods of heaven and earth. On this day, people abstain from eating meat to achieve longevity. (Makes sense.) They also visit the elders in their extended family and hand out red packets called “ang pow” filled with money to little kids. The amount, however, should not add up to four because the word “four” is a homophone for death in Chinese. Eight is appropriate, though, as it’s a homophone for wealth.
Of course, there are the Lion and Dragon dances, which have become symbols of the yearly Chinese celebration. These are accompanied by the loud clanging of cymbals, gongs, and the thumping beat of traditional Chinese drums, again, to drive away bad spirits and invite good luck. Firecrackers are set off for good measure.
The second day is a little more relaxed, as this is the time for married daughters to visit their parents. Dogs don’t get kicked around much because it’s believed they were all were born on this day.
On the third and fourth days, every married Chinese guy musters all his strength and will power to overcome the one thing that even the bravest men have dreaded since the beginning of time: paying a visit to their parents-in-law.
The fifth day, also known as Po Wu, is for welcoming the god of wealth into one’s home. It is not advised to visit anyone on this day because it will spell bad luck. Seeing friends and relatives is allowed on the next day, the sixth. They may also go to the temple to pray for wealth.
The Chinese believe that everyone grows a year older on the seventh day of the two-week Spring Festival. As such, meat must be avoided and people should eat noodles instead for long life. On this day, the farmers also get to show off their produce.
On the ninth day, offerings are made to the Jade Emperor. He is the Taoist ruler of heaven and all other creations. The night before that is for Tian Gong, the god of heaven. Prayers to Tian Gong from the Fujian people are mandatory.
Days ten to twelfth are for inviting over for a hearty dinner relatives and friends whom one had paid a visit to in the previous days. Don’t expect a banquet on the following day, though, as it’s for much simpler dishes, such as congee (rice porridge) and mustard greens, which are good for cleansing one’s body system.
The 14th day, is spent preparing for the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated on the 15th day, the culmination of the Chinese New Year feast. On the night of the 15th, children go out carrying lanterns of different shapes and sizes. In the past, the 15th was also the day for matchmaking, with unmarried women walking around without an escort so as to be spotted by eligible bachelors.
Healthy (and lucky) Goodies
Food is, of course, integral to the celebration. But not every dish can be served, as each food item’s name should be phonetically similar to or associated with wealth, good luck, prosperity, abundance, and longevity.
Those who want to have a son in the coming year, for example, should have the jai, a vegetarian dish made from lotus seeds. Bamboo shoots are for wishing that everything goes right for the year. Gingko nuts symbolize silver ingots for the Chinese, while black moss seaweed and dried bean curd are homonyms for exceeding in wealth.
The Chinese also serve dumplings because their shape resembles Chinese gold nuggets. Glutinous rice goodies such as Nian Gao and Tikoy have become staple new year dishes as their stickiness is believed to help keep the family together. Fish is also on the menu but, ironically, shouldn’t be eaten. If you want a big smile on your face all year round when you check your bank balance, don’t eat the fish. It symbolizes having surplus cash or savings for the rest of the year and, therefore, must be left alone.
print ed: 02/08