Today mark’s the first day of the Chinese New Year! 2015 is the year of the Sheep, Goat, or Ram depending on which region you’re from. And with today being the first day, the festivities begin!
Many celebrate the New Year with 15 days of festivities, even here in the United States, with each day having a different significance and traditions. Under traditional practices, on the first day, the deities of the earth and the heavens are welcomed. It’s also the day where one honors their elder’s and families, with many choosing to visit grandparents and family on this day. It’s traditional to light fireworks and firecrackers today as well, and some families invite a Lion Dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to ward off evil spirits.
The second day is when married daughters visit their birth parents, relatives, and close friends. Traditionally, married daughters wouldn’t have many opportunities to visit so the second day held special significance for them. Every day has its own customs and practices, with certain foods being eaten only on certain days, and special celebrations occurring only at that specific point of the year.
On the 15th day the Lantern Festival is held. The traditional food eaten this day is a sweet, sticky rice ball brewed in a soup, and lanterns are lit outside to guide wayward spirits home. Families walk the street carrying paper lanterns as well. In China, Malaysia and Singapore, the 15th its also a sort of Valentines Day, where single people seek out partners. Normally, single women would write their number or contact information on a mandarin orange (the most abundant fruit in China during the new year) and toss it into a river or lake where single men would pick them up and eat them. A sweet orange would mean a good fate, the relationship would be good and work well. A sour or bitter taste would mean a bad fate, no good.
Another practice most people know about are the red envelopes. Typically, red envelopes filled with money are given to children during the new year for good fortune. Its also typical to give gifts to friends, often assortments of candies and other such items.
In the United States, the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is the oldest celebration of its kind outside of Asia. During the 1850′s gold rush era, Chinese immigrants were eager to share their culture and traditions with those unfamiliar or hostile towards it. In San Francisco, where one of the largest Chinese communities in the US existed and still exists, people showcase their culture using a tradition already loved by the American public: a parade. Today, the parade is attended by over 500,000 people annually, and its televised to over 3 million homes as well. If you have a chance, I recommend it checking it out. I have wonderful memories of great friends and food shared in past years.
Happy Chinese New Year everybody! And to anybody who happens to be a goat, sheep, or ram on the Chinese zodiac, go celebrate! It’s your year, have fun with it.
P.S. If anyone happens to go to San Francisco, please me bring back some Dim Sum. I love that stuff.