China Ushers In 'Year Of The Rabbit'
Today, February 3rd, marks the first day of the Chinese or Lunar New Year, one of the most important traditional festivals for people of Chinese descent. While all festivals entail some days of celebration, this one lasts for a whopping fifteen days!
To commemorate the new year, people spring clean their homes, buy new clothes and ignite firecrackers - Since red is considered very auspicious and believed to ward off bad luck and keep evil spirits at bay, it is often the color of choice for clothing, as well as, lanterns and scrolls that adorn the homes. It is also customary to hang chun lian, or spring couplets, which extol happy and hopeful messages about the future. But best of all, is the tradition of elders gifting the younger generations money, in red envelopes, of course!
And then there is the delicious food that goes along with every fun festival. A Chinese New Year meal is a veritable feast, one where each item holds a special meaning. Long uncut noodles represent longevity, while a whole chicken is a symbol of family togetherness. Dumplings (resemble ingots, an ancient Chinese currency) and spring rolls (which look like gold bars), represent wealth and prosperity.
The New Year celebrations end with the Lantern festival on the day of the full moon. On this day, many people go the temple to hang lanterns and also, walk with them in a festive parade. The highlight of the Lantern festival is the dragon dance. Dragons made from silk, paper and bamboo are held up by men, who dance and guide the colorful animal through the streets.
Another age-old tradition is naming each year after a different animal (a cycle that lasts 12 years and is then repeated). Legend has it, that when Lord Buddha was alive, he called all the animals to celebrate the New Year with him - Only twelve came. He named a year after each one and said the people born in that year, would have some of the traits of that particular animal.
2011, is the Year of the Rabbit, which includes anyone born in 1915, 1927, 1939, 1952, 1963, 1975, 1987 and 1999. People born in these years, are reputed to be calm, intelligent, popular and also, very lucky! Chinese people also believe that the animal has some influence on how the year will go for everyone. They therefore predict that 2011 will be calm and peaceful - One where people will choose diplomacy and persuasion, instead of brutal force. We sure hope they are right, especially given that next year is dedicated to the most ferocious of all animals - The dragon! To all of you who celebrate this amazing festival:
Kung Hai Fat Choi! (Happy New Year)
Resources: musiced.about.com, wikipedia.org