Lion dance performers entertain participants to the Chinese New Year’s celebration at the Fo Guang Shan Chu Un Temple on V. Rama Ave., Cebu City on Feb. 5, 2019.| CDND Photo by Tonee Despojo
CEBU CITY, Philippines — We bid goodbye to the Year of the Dog and say “nihao” to the Year of the Pig as the world officially celebrates Chinese New Year (CNY).
We compiled some interesting tidbits about this worldwide celebration to help you better appreciate CNY.
1. Spring Festival
Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival or Chūn Jié (春节) as it starts on the beginning of spring. The Chinese follows a lunar calendar which is why the new year starts with the new moon (xin yue, 新月). The celebration goes on for 15 days or ends on the full moon (满月) or15 days later. The Lantern Festival（元宵节）is celebrated on the 15th day of the new year where the night is lit up with lantern parades and displays.
2. Animal signs
Ever wondered why each year is associated with an animal? Popularly known as the Chinese zodiac, the Shengxiao has a 12-year circle, where each year corresponds to an animal sign.
The animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The year 2019 is the Year of the Pig. It is believed that a person bears the characteristics of the animal of the year he/she is born in. For instance, people born in the year of the pig are said to be brave, happy, sincere, honest and easygoing.
3. Red envelopes
What’s the deal with red envelopes or hóng bāo (红包)?
Chinese traditional stories point to a story where the beast named Nian (also the same word as the Chinese word for “year”)
is said to prey on villagers on the night before new year. To scare Nian away, people made noise (firecrackers and drum beats) and hang red decorations. Red is said to be a lucky color because it drives away the monster.
The red envelope, also called lai see and âng pau, is a way of wishing good luck and sharing blessings. It is given to children and unmarried, single members of the family.
The Chinese word for fish is “yú” (鱼), which sound like the same word as “surplus” (yú 余). There is saying that goes “Nián nián yǒu yú (年年有余) which translates to: “May you always have more than you need!”
Of course, we know about the other food items served on Chinese New Year dinners including dumplings, spring rolls, rice cake and longevity noodles.
A few CNY greetings of health, wealth and good fortune with their corresponding Chinese characters which you may have seen in tarps and streamers:
Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái (恭喜发财) which means “Wish you wealth and prosperity”
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè! (新年快乐) which means “Happy New Year!”
Xīn Xiǎng Shì Chéng (心想事成)which means “May all your wishes come true.”
Shēng Yì Xīng lóng (生意兴隆) which means “May your business flourish.”
Shēn Tǐ Jiàn Kāng(身体健康) which means “Wish you good health.”
6. Family reunion
If you want to travel to the big Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, do it on the day after CNY. These cities are empty. Since the festival is celebrated for 15 days, this is the longest holiday in China which means that those living in the cities will go home to their respective provinces for the most anticipated family reunion because it is a must for everyone to come home for the New Year’s Eve dinner. This is called chunyun (春运) or spring migration. The only downside to traveling on these dates is that many stores are close for the holiday.
7. CNY desserts
Nián gāo (年糕) is the famous of CNY dessert. Nian Gao, which translates to “year cake” or new year cake, is made of brown sugar and glutinous rice flour. It is round and sticky which symbolizes completeness and togetherness. Nian gāo in Chinese also means “a year higher,” bringing with it the wish of prosperity year on year.
Other desserts are tāngyuán (汤圆) or sweet rice balls and máqiú (麻球) or sesame seed balls. These desserts symbolize family unity or get-togetherness.
8. World celebration
Mainland China’s population is between 1.3 to 1.4 billion. This does not include the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, the Chinese people in Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines and other Asian cities. Of course, there are Chinese communities in just about every corner of the world: US, UK, Australia, Canada… name it! It is said that one-sixth of the world celebrate CNY with the pomp and pageantry like mainland China. Overseas Chinese population is recorded at 50 million; no wonder CNY is celebrated in every part of the world!
Xin nian kuai le!
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