Thursday, February 08, 2007

Chinese New Year: Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Chinese New Year is Sunday, February 18th.
For those who don’t know, we are about to enter the year of the Pig. I am so excited to see the firework celebrations planned (just across the river from where we live). The trees in the square are decorated. Red envelopes and pigs (stuffed animals) are everywhere.

The Chinese New Year is a huge deal. The Chinese take off a full week to visit their families – it is bad luck if you don’t! As expected, traveling during this time is extremely expensive and reservations must be made well in advance.

To ensure we are celebrating the New Year appropriately, I did some research – only to find that I need to get my tail in gear this coming week to ensure we have a prosperous New Year. The following information has been pulled directly from

The Chinese believe that New Year activities set precedent. All debts should be paid by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words. Negative terms and the word "four" (Ssu), which sounds like the word for death, should not be uttered. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are totally taboo. References to the past year are also avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning.

If you cry on New Year's day, you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated and are not spanked, even though they are mischievous.

So where do I start?

House cleaning:

The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away.

After New Year's Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away.

Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door. (Hmmm, we don’t have a back door)


Prior to New Year's Day, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit. On walls and doors are poetic couplets, happy wishes written on red paper. These messages sound better than the typical fortune cookie messages. For instance, "May you enjoy continuous good health" and "May the Star of Happiness, the Star of Wealth and the Star of Longevity shine on you" are especially positive couplets.

Blooming plants - every traditional Chinese household should also have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one's career. Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. In more elaborate settings, plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs, the grouping symbolizing friends; the plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance; the bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility and its flexible stems for furniture and other articles; the evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness.

Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow, azalea, peony and water lily or narcissus.

The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of any fruits. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have flowers and floral decorations. They are the emblems of reawakening of nature, they are also intimately connected with superstition and with the wish for happiness during the ensuing year.

The candy tray - arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness" and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults places a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.


Everything you eat means something …

* Candied melon - growth and good health

* Red melon seed - dyed red to symbolize joy, happiness, truth and sincerity

* Lychee nut - strong family relationships

* Cumquat - prosperity (gold)

* Coconut - togetherness

* Peanuts - long life

* Longnan - many good sons

* Lotus seed - many children

*Oranges and Tangerines: Etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines when visiting family or friends anytime during the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

* In the north, steamed-wheat bread (man tou) and small meat dumplings were the preferred food. The tremendous amount of food prepared at this time was meant to symbolize abundance and wealth for the household.

Once your house is properly decorated, the festivities can begin:

The first day of the Lunar New Year is "the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth." Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the new year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them.

On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs.

The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law.

The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits families and friends on the fifth day because it will bring both parties bad luck.

On the sixth to the 10th day, the Chinese visit their relatives and friends freely. They also visit the temples to pray for good fortune and health.

The seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. These farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion. The seventh day is also considered the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success.

On the eighth day the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner, and at midnight they pray to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.

The ninth day is to make offerings to the Jade Emperor.

The 10th through the 12th are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner. After so much rich food, on the 13th day you should have simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) to cleanse the system.

The 14th day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is to be held on the 15th night.

Some Chinese Superstitions:

  • On New Year's Day, we are not suppose to wash our hair because it would mean we would have washed away good luck for the New Year.
  • Red clothing is preferred during this festive occasion. Red is considered a bright, happy color, sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. It is believed that appearance and attitude during New Year's sets the tone for the rest of the year.
  • Children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given lai see, little red envelopes with crisp one dollar bills inserted, for good fortune.
  • For those most superstitious, before leaving the house to call on others, the Almanac should be consulted to find the best time to leave the home and the direction which is most auspicious to head out.
  • The first person one meets and the first words heard are significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year. It is a lucky sign to see or hear songbirds or red-colored birds or swallows.
  • It is considered unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom so that is why everyone, even the sick, should get dressed and sit in the living room.
  • Do not use knives or scissors on New Year's Day as this may cut off fortune.
  • While many Chinese people today may not believe in these do's and don'ts, these traditions and customs are still practiced. These traditions and customs are kept because most families realize that it is these very traditions, whether believed or not, that provide continuity with the past and provide the family with an identity.


Year of the Pig Predictions:

So what should we expect in the Year of the Pig? The following is from Sherman Tai, Fortune Teller & Feng Shui Master ( ).

“The year of the Pig entails a lot of changes and a lot of opposition. There is constant gossip and disagreements; it is rebellious year. But don’t forget those who are highly successful and wealthy arose from tough competition and change, so therefore, we must be bold, have ambition and wisdom. When you see danger, do not proceed; plan carefully then take action. Work hard, take advantage of networking and opportunity, then you may find that career and finance can be within your grasp.

The I Ching (ancient Chinese text) tells us how to live life. It says that before the brightness comes, it must be dark; therefore, before success can be obtained, there must work hard. In the year of the Pig, you must have a good understanding of yourself; know what you are capable and not capable of. Don’t do bad things. Be humble, hard working and be wise. When those above and below cooperate, the sun can rise from the ground. The year of the Pig is a year where it is initially difficult, then good. When good comes to you, don’t be too careless and arrogant; make friends and be modest. With everything, you must ask more, learn more, and do more.

Though there is disarray, there won’t be major disasters or wars. Infectious diseases won’t be as serious (ie. SARS, flu pandemic), but people will still need to tend to their health. In general, the year of the Pig is good. Stability is winning. As long as people cooperate with each other, and not be too ambitious and arrogant, then everything going smoothly is peace for the people. In general, finance and economy is good.

In the past two years, banking, economy, and business activity flourished. Productivity and living standards were increasing. Unemployment rate was at a low. Most importantly, inflation was low. However, property values were high in both East and West coast increased by over 15%. The Dow Jones will increase over 11,000 points. What I have predicted in the past was correct. However, for people, things are not always good for a thousand days and flowers do not stay red for over a hundred days.”

A couple things he notes about the American economy:

· In 2007 there will be initially some increase in interest rates, approximately 0.5 – 0.75%, and then it may decrease by about 1-1.25%, so that averaged, there is a 0.5% decrease, producing a soft landing at the end of fall.

· In autumn, the economy will be more stable, so the last half of 2007 is where the American economy begins to recover. Buying power of the people will be weak. Housing prices will slowly decline. Depending on location, property values may be decrease by 5-8% decrease.

· Natural resources will decline in value, which will slow down the rate of decline of the American economy.

· This year, crude oil may drop below $60 USD a barrel, though will fluctuate between $58 and $68 USD, and gold, to $580 USD/ounce to $640 USD.

· For the small investor, don’t invest unless you have a lot of money. It is advised to wait until after autumn when the economy and financial market is more stable, before coming up with new investments.

· If you insist on investing in US stocks this year, consider science/technology, medical, mining, and finance/banking. The American dollar will not be very strong in the year of the Pig. USD to Euro will range approximately from 1.27 to 1.3. Therefore, USD to ren men bi will be approximately 7.8 to 7.78.

· Attitudes towards the Middle East continue to be very strong; however there is no chance of capturing Bin Laden.

· Safety of the people will not be good. Public shootings, school shootings, and robberies will be more frequent and prevalent.

· Government and financial scene may have a scandal. Corporate crimes will be more than before.

· There will also be more natural disasters in 2007, in particular fire, flood, and tornado disasters, and especially in the north and southeast, be aware of major accidents and disasters.

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