Thursday, February 4, 2016

Superstitions and Chinese New Year

Whilst the Chinese New Year's Day always falls on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, the date varies each year on the Gregorian calendar, between January 21th and February 20th. Only the first three days of Chinese New Year (February 8–10, 2016) are statutory holiday, but many people take 7 consecutive days off. This year is the Year of the Monkey and for people born in a year of the monkey (1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004), 2016 it is considered a bad year. "Monkeys" are witty, intelligent and have a magnetic personality but must ensure they protect themselves from bad luck Red in Chinese culture is associated with luck, so is important Monkeys wear red. Favoured items of clothing include a red belt, red socks, red shoes, or red clothes, but red underwear is highly recommended during the zodiac year. To ensure good luck however it is important the red underwear should be bought by a spouse, family member, or friend. Jade too is a lucky talisman and pendants, earrings, rings, and bracelets are ward to ward off bad luck. According to traditional belief,Tai Sui the God of Age, is offended by people in their zodiac year and they can incur his curse so it is important people in the year of their birth sign should always seek the help of lucky talisman in the zodiac year.

As an agricultural culture, the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival holiday traditionally was set to start at the beginning of the growing season, which nowadays corresponds to the beginning of a new business year. The hope is always the new zodiac year will bring prosperity and success so it is important to get a good start to the year. During the Chinese New Year thousands flock to the temple, to pray for good fortune in the coming year. In preparation, family’s homes and surrounds are cleaned prior to the festival in order to rid the home of any bad fortune from the previous year. Old decorations are removed and replaced with new ones for the Spring Festival. Having a clean home also makes way for good luck in the New Year. Domestic cleaning is never undertaken during the festival in case it sweeps away good fortune.

Chinese New Year is a time for family and get together. The New Year’s Eve dinner is a major event with certain foods are prominent because of their symbolic meanings, based on their names or appearances. Fish is a must, as the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for surplus. Eating fish is thought to bring a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year. Other favourites include dumplings, spring rolls, glutinous rice cakes, and sweet rice balls.

Pyrotechnics are a tradition at Chinese New Year. The significance of the fire crackers is to "sound out" the old year and "sound in" the new year. Displays start with one string of small firecrackers, followed by three big firecrackers. The louder and more colourful (red) the three firecrackers are the better and luckier it’ is for the coming year. Evil spirits have an aversion to anything red and loud noises.

During the Spring Festival, gifts are exchanged with the most common Hong Baos or red envelopes, containing an even number of new bank notes. Traditionally these are given to children, young unmarried adults and (retired) seniors but sometimes employers will reward their workers with red envelopes. In the cyber age young people exchange cyber money via red envelope apps for fun. The practice of giving Mandarin oranges (always in pairs) is also a symbol of good luck. Giving gifts of clocks, watches or other time pieces should be avoided. To the superstitious these symbolise time running out, as well as relationships coming to an end.

Families follow a set of beliefs and superstitions to start the year on the right note and there are many superstitions observed during the Spring Festival season. These taboos usually apply up to a month before the festival and continue to the end of the festival (day 15, the Lantern Festival).

Washing Hair in the first three days is considered bad luck for fear of washing away good luck.

Crying children is bad karma and so the young are placated fastidiously. Children are also spared from all punishments even if they are misbehaving.

It is normal is clear all debts before the beginning on the new year and asking for a loan, lending or begging during the festival is not a done practice, as it is believed it will only bring misfortune.

Talking about anything related to death is strictly forbidden as is wearing black clothing.

Using knives or scissors should be avoided as they may cut off fortune.

In the Year of the Monkey, Tai Sui sits in the southwest of the zodiac calendar. Some Monkeys believe to get Tai Sui behind them will bring them good luck. They adjust their beds, seats, desks, and even where they live and work to face away from Tai Sui. When doing something important, such as a business negotiation, they prefer to face northeast, during negotiations. It is not a consensus however, and some believe facing in the opposite direction to Tai Sui will bring them good fortune.

> Zao Jun is the Kitchen God (or Stove God) and he is a popular domestic deity. Many household keet paper effigy in his honour and he has a very important role to play. At the Spring Festival. The common belief is he returned to Heaven ach year at this time to report on the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor The Jade Emperor (Yu Huang). who will in turn either reward or punish a family based on Zao Jun's yearly report. To prevent Zao Jun from giving too much information about the family sticky sweet cakes (Chinese New Year's cake) are left as offering in the hope his mouth will be too sticky to tell all on the family. The lips of Zao Jun's paper effigy are often smeared with honey to sweeten his words to Yu Huang (Jade Emperor), or to keep his lips stuck together. After this, the effigy will be burnt and replaced by a new one on New Year's Day. If the household has a statue or a nameplate of Zao Jun it will be taken down and cleaned on this day for the new year.

A Happy New Year.

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