Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is also referred to as the Spring Festival and is the most traditional and celebrated festival in China. To get ready for the new year ahead, Chinese families are busy spring cleaning the house to get rid of any bad luck in the year before, decorating the entrance doors with the guarding gods to safeguard the family and fend off any bad spirits, putting festive greetings “fai chun” around the house and prepare the new year feast for the family gathering. When the New Year arrives, plentiful of celebration events including the lion dance, fireworks and lantern displays are staged to enhance the festive atmosphere until the middle of the month.
Chinese New Year Myths
There are many Chinese New Year myths. Amongst the others, the Chinese zodiac story is the most legendary.
According to the myth, our ancient ancestors are often threatened by a strange beast. This evil beast is called “year”. Its head is as fierce as a lion and body as sturdy as an elephant. It has endless power that can move the mountain with a single roar!
This mighty beast captures other creatures for food. When winter arrives, he failed to capture the creatures in hibernation and food quickly ran out. Consequently, he made his way to the valley to harass the peasants. At first the beast only prey on cattle for food, but eventually started to feed on the peasants.
As time goes by, the peasants spotted the beast weakness. They discovered the beast had three fears – the colour red, bright light and sparkles and loud bangs. They then had a cunning plan, when winter comes and the beast make his way down the mountain, each house is decorated in red and the peasants would dance, cheer and make loud noises. The plan indeed worked and the beast was scared away by the fire crackers that sent bright sparkles in the darkness of the night and deafening loud bangs. The villagers’ happy cheers and music did form special powers to get rid of the beast and allowed them to live in harmony thereafter.
On the following day, all the villagers went out of the home to send good wishes to one and other and start to celebrate with festive wine and feast.
To celebrate their success, the villagers decorated their house with red greetings and festive slogans, lit candles and lanterns and played load music every winter to fend off evil spirits. This then became New Year’s Eve and the following day became New Year Day, celebrated with family gatherings, families wishing each other, kids wore new clothes. The tradition was passed from one generation to another generation for centuries.
New Year Customs
The most common Chinese New Year customs include
28th day of the final month – spring cleaning
29th day of the final month – putting up festive decoration such as the Guarding Gods on doors and Good Wish Slogan “Fai Chuns”
30th day of the final month (New Year’s Eve) – Change into new outfits, ritual worship for the ancestors, family feast
1st day of the first month (New Year’s Day) – firecracker and firework display, dragon and lion dance, everyone wear their new outfits to visit friends and families, married adults give out red packets “laisees” and send best wishes each other and most importantly wishing everyone a prosperous year “kung hei fat choy”
Chinese Valentine's day
Chinese Valentine’s day
Adding a final splash of colour to Chinese New Year is the popular Chinese Valentine’s Day!
Following an old Chinese Tradition, flower markets, restaurants, homes and parks are filled with colourful lanterns in traditional designs. Visit the parks listed below and celebrate the traditional festival with lantern riddle quizzes, fortune telling, games and performances!
Ancestor worship is a Chinese tradition dating back thousands of years. Also known as the Grave-sweeping or Spring Remembrance, Ching Ming (“clear and bright”), is when Chinese families show their respect by visiting the graves of their ancestors to clear away weeds, touch up gravestone inscriptions and make offerings of wine and fruit.
Dragon Boat Festival
This Festival, also known as Tuen Ng Festival, commemorates the death of a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River over 2,000 years ago to protest against the corrupt rulers. Legend says that as townspeople attempted to rescue him, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to keep the fish from eating Qu Yuan’s body. The real highlight of the festival is the fierce dragon boats racing in a lively, vibrant spectacle. Teams race the elaborately decorated dragon boats to the beat of heavy drums. The special boats, which measure more than 10 metres, have ornately carved and painted “dragon” heads and tails, and each carries a crew of 20-22 paddlers.
Mid Autumn Day
Mid Autumn Day
The festival commemorates a 14th Century uprising against the Mongols. In a cunning plan, the rebels wrote the call to revolt on pieces of paper and embedded them in cakes that they smuggled to compatriots.
Today, during the festival, people eat special sweet cakes known as “Moon Cakes” made of ground lotus and sesame seed paste, egg-yolk and other ingredients. Along with the cakes, shops sell coloured Chinese paper lanterns in the shapes of animals, and more recently, in the shapes of aeroplanes and space ships. On this family occasion, parents allow children to stay up late and take them to high vantage points such as The Peak to light their lanterns and watch the huge autumn moon rise while eating their moon cakes. Public parks are ablaze with many thousands of lanterns in all colours, sizes and shapes.
Chang O Flees to the Moon
According to a famous Chinese legend, the sky was originally lit by ten suns, whose combined heat scorched the earth and crops so that the people had nothing to eat. To save the world from imminent starvation China’s most famous archer, Hou Yi, shot down nine of the suns with his bow and then rid the land of poisonous snakes and beasts so people could live in peace and happiness. Unfortunately for Hou Yi, these ten suns turned out to be the sons of the Jade Emperor, who was so angered by the loss of his sons, that he banished the archer together with his wife, Chang O, and children from the face of the earth. When the Western Goddess discovered what had happened, she took pity on Hou Yi, giving him an elixir of immortality. But Chang O greedily swallowed the potion by herself and as the concoction worked through her body she became lighter and lighter and floated up into the sky. Fearing that the deities in heaven would laugh at her, she took refuge on the moon, building there a palace known as the “Cold Palace,” where she lives to this very day as the Lady of the Moon. Since it is believed that Chang O floated to the moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, people offer annual prayer and sacrifices to the moon on that day to commemorate the event.
Legend of Eating Mooncakes
According to popular belief, the custom of eating mooncakes began in the late Yuan dynasty. As the story goes, the Han people of that time resented the Mongol rule of the Yuan Dynasty and revolutionaries, led by Chu Yuan-chang, plotted to usurp the throne. Chu needed to find a way of uniting the people to revolt on the same day without letting the Mongol rulers learn of the plan. Chu’s close advisor, Liu Po-wen, finally came up with a brilliant idea. A rumor was spread that a plague was ravaging the land and that only by eating a special mooncake distributed by the revolutionaries could the disaster be prevented. The mooncakes were then distributed only to the Han people, who found, upon cutting the cakes open, the message “Revolt on the fifteenth of the eighth moon.” Thus informed, the people rose together on the designated day to overthrow the Yuan, and since that time mooncakes have become an integral part of the Mid- Autumn Festival.
Fire dragon dance in Tai Hang
Over a century ago, Tai Hang was a village whose inhabitants lived off of farming and fishing. A few days before the Mid-Autumn Festival a typhoon and then a plague wreaked havoc on the village. While the villagers were repairing the damage, a python entered the village and ate their livestock. According to some villagers, the python was the son of the Dragon King. The only way to stop the havoc which had beset their village was to dance a fire dance for three days and nights during the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival. The villagers made a big fire dragon of straw and stuck incense into the dragon. They lit firecrackers. They danced for three days and three nights and the plague disappeared.
Also known as Autumn Remembrance, this festival is similar to Ching Ming in the spring, in that families journey to the graves of their ancestors to perform cleansing rites and pay their respects. They share the food they bring along, especially Chinese cakes, ko, which is a homonym of the word for “top”. Some believe that those who eat these cakes will be promoted to the top.
It is also a day for hiking. The Chung Yeung Festival commemorates a Han Dynasty (BC 202-AD 220) legend, which tells how a soothsayer advised Woon King that he should take his family to a high place for the entire ninth day of the ninth moon. Upon their return, the Woon family discovered all living things in their village had been slaughtered. Today, many Hong Kong families head to the hills to picnic during the Chung Yeung Festival.
Dong Zhi is the second most important festival of the Chinese calendar.
Celebrated on the longest night of the year, Dong Zhi is the day when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The coming of winter is celebrated by families and is traditionally the time when farmers and fishermen gather food in preparation for the coming cold season. It is also a time for family reunions.
This celebration can be traced to the Chinese belief in yin and yang, which represent balance and harmony in life. It is believed that the yin qualities of darkness and cold are at their most powerful at this time, but it is also the turning point, giving way to the light and warmth of yang. For this reason, the Dong Zhi Festival is a time for optimism.
Dong Zhi is celebrated in style. The longest night of the year is a time to put on brand new clothes, visit family with gifts and to laugh and drink deep into the long night.