Sunday, January 29, 2006

Xin Nian Kuai Le! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Happy New Year! Congratulations and get rich! No, I'm not a month late in entering 2006. I'm just on time to enter the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese lunar calendar. In celebration of a holiday that really means nothing to me, here are a few observations about Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival. I've learned a little since last year.

The official color is red. There are red decorations everywhere, because red is the color of happiness. You often see, in addition to traditional Chinese lanterns, lots of fish and pineapple. The fish is because the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for happiness. And I think the pineapple is because it is the color of gold, but that's just my guess. I know that's why they pass out a lot of oranges - mandarin, not navel. And always two at a time, because odd numbers is not lucky. So when it comes to handing out hong bao (red bags) of money to children, you should always give in even numbers. Including the number 6 or 8 is lucky, but 4 is bad (Chinese words sounds like the word for death).

On the homefront, it's very important to do "spring cleaning" before the new year, and not after. Afterwards you're likely to sweep away all the good fortune of the new year. I've heard people also buy new clothes and sheets, as I can attest to as I did both quite coincidentally.

The day of seems to be spent with family, or on holiday somewhere off the island. Erik has a few days off this week and we'll do our best to avoid places with high numbers of people. We leave on Thursday for Thailand, so we'll miss the Chinggay parade which is held the 8th day after Chinese new year. We will be having a BBQ with our small group from church so that will be good enough for us.

This holiday is bigger than Christmas for Chinese - it's their most important holiday. You'd think we'd be old hats at celebrating since we've been in Asia for 7 years, but we were usually out of the country at the time so we're just now understanding it all.

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