Friday, February 8, 2008

The Year of the Rat

Happy Chinese New Year! This is the year of the Rat, so if you're born in 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985 or 1997, this is your year.

Apart from the family reunion and consumption of too many cookies and cakes, Chinese New Year is very much about traditions and fashions.

My family isn't a very traditional family but there are still several practices that we observe. I'm not sure if the reasons behind them are the original ones but they are what we were taught.

1) We leave the lights in the house on overnight so that the God of Prosperity can find his way to us.

2) We don't sweep the floors on the first day of the new year in case we accidentally sweep the good luck away.

3) There is absolutely no arguing on this day. Everybody has to hold their tongues on this day. Even Aaron is 'indulged' so that he does not cry. So today, he got out of his car seat, too many bites of our cookies and too many walks 'outside'. We don't want to start the year off with any bitter tastes.

4) When we visit somebody else's home, we usually give them several mandarins and maybe some cookies or a packet of peanuts. They will give us something similar in return. The mandarins end up getting recycled from one house to another. Sometimes the other goodies are kept but they usually get given out to somebody as well to minimize the amount that we need to stock up on at home. The whole idea is about perpetuating the cycle of giving and receiving.

5) Nobody wears black on this day. If possible, we dress in red or any colour related to red. Supposedly, red is traditionally worn to chase away some monster....this is some ancient chinese myth. I don't know much about it at all, we just all reach for the red clothes.

Thats about all I can remember that we do. Other families will have many more traditions like being vegetarian for a day and also special prayers.

The first day of Chinese New Year is also when many people will wear new clothes. In the past, my parents told me that it is the only time during the year that they would receive any new clothes to wear. These days, people are more casual and will not always be in brand new clothes. They do try to have some chinese element on it if they can. I wore a Cheongsam (also called Qipao) from 37 years ago. My mother had this made from some material she received as a wedding present.

The most well dressed people on this day are usually my grandparents. My grandmother is wearing the traditional Sam Fu (literally, shirt and pants) and my grandfather is just in a new red shirt. They still look like a beautiful couple don't they?


Kellan said...

I just love hearing about these traditions! Happy Chinese New Year - Enjoy! See you later Amanda - Kellan

MamaGeek said...

Those photos didn't display for me - but those traditions were really interesting! Happy Chinese New Year.

Serina Hope said...

I can't see your pics, but I love this post. I love hearing about your world.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

All excellent traditions. Thanks for sharing them.

Serina Hope said...

I love your grandmother's dress...
And gosh Amanda, you look awesome.