Chinese New Year festival starts on the first day of the lunar calendar year which is also the first day of the new moon and the festival ends on the 15th day, the last day of the full moon which is also known as Chap Goh Mei.
Usually the celebrations are observed on the first few days and as mentioned on the last day while in Malaysia the first two days are considered public holidays.
Usually the preparations for the festivals will start a month in advance where the people will start buying decorations for the house, new clothes as well as foodstuff. Every inch of the house is cleaned and then it will be adorned with colourful decorations especially in red.
The reunion dinner is the most important occasion of the celebrations which is held on the eve of CNY, this is where the family members who are living close by or from far away will return home for the dinner. In adherence to ‘shou sui’ the family members will stay up all night after the reunion dinner, this is a practice that is said to bring one’s parent longevity. In order to pass the time it is not uncommon for the members of the household to gamble.
The Chinese New Year is ushered in at the stroke of midnight with firecrackers and fireworks, however these items are prohibited in Malaysia but some still manage to get their hands on them. Not only do relatives come to pay visit but in Malaysia it is a common practice for people of other races and religions to be invited as well. However to visit a house during CNY it is essential that you bring mandarin oranges which symbolises wealth or it will be considered disrespectful.
Another common practice on this particular day is for the married couples to give the children as well as the adults who are not married money that is inserted into red packets or commonly referred to as ‘ang pow’. The giving of the ang pow signifies that the recipient will enjoy a wealthy and fruitful life.
As with other forms of celebrations, CNY is also a time where some of the taboos and beliefs must be adhered to with some being spiritual in nature. A popular example of such beliefs is on the first day of the New Year where no one is allowed to sweep the floor; the reason for such practice is because the act of sweeping is considered to be unlucky as all the fortune would be swept away.
While sweeping the floor may bring you misfortune, it is believed that the lion will not only bring you good fortune but at the same time ward off evil. That is why the lion dance is such a widely popular tradition and it one of the most spectacular sights during this period. In fact it is so popular that you will not only see it during CNY but also during grand occasions such as the opening of businesses.
And of course there is the final day of CNY known as Chap Goh Mei or also regarded as the Chinese Valentine’s Day where you can see maidens throwing mandarin oranges into the rivers to attract potential suitors.
I would like to wish Happy Chinese Year to my Chinese readers and may the new year of the Tiger will bring more wealth, health and prosperity to us all.
GONG XI FA CHAI
Image Credit – jenniferphoon