I’m sure I don’t remember my first Lunar New Year celebration. There had to be lanterns or lion dances or fireworks on the Monterey Peninsula or on a family visit to San Francisco. The first one I really remember was in Singapore in 1992. The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band was the first college marching band to appear in the Singapore Chingay Procession, and I was lucky enough to be a part of that esteemed group.
Living in China, we have seen all sorts of NY celebrations. Fireworks and a parade with 20,000 of our closest friends in Hong Kong. Hourly fireworks for weeks in Shenyang. Tigers and rabbits and dragons and now, snakes. Dumplings and oranges and fish, and more dumplings.
The Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival (Chun Jie), is a time for families and friends to share meals, thanksgiving, conversation and time together. The Festival is celebrated for 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao Jie), the first full moon after the new year. Tradition says fireworks and the color red scare away the ugly and ferocious nian monster, keeping away the bad luck. Red lanterns and decorations adorn doorways and store fronts.
Oh, the superstitions. You should clean your house on the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, but if you clean on NYE, you might sweep away the good luck coming with the new year. Then something about sweeping dust inwards, not out the door, and take the trash out the back door. One should not use bad or unlucky words. Don’t wash your hair on NY day as you might wash away good luck. If you cry on NY day, you will cry throughout the year. And on and on. Admittedly, people don’t truly believe all of the superstitions, but they still abide by many of them just in case. And they respect their elders and their ancestors enough to respect their traditions.
May Shou the God of Longevity, Fu the God of Happiness and Good Luck, and Lu the God of Prosperity all visit you this Festival season and in the Year of the Snake. Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year) and Guo Nian Hao (pass the year well).