Farewell to the Year of the Pig as we usher in the Year of the Rat. According to the Chinese Zodiac based on a 12-year cycle with each year associated to an animal sign, this new year is the Year of the Rat. Starting on January 25 to February 11, 2021 is Year of the Metal Rat.
For Chinese people all over the world, this new year celebration is called Lunar New Year and celebrated also as the Spring Festival. It is celebrated in January or February in many countries around the world.
Catching up with family
For many Chinese families, the Spring Festival is the most important gathering of the year. So no matter how far we live away from our family, this is the one time we are expected to come back home for the big reunion dinner where we can expect a sumptuous home-made dinner. This is the one time of the year when our parents and grandparents will pull out all the stops and spoil us silly with a giant spread of delicious dishes which not only look good but have auspicious connotations.
Dragon dances and lion dance festivals will usher in the new year in many cities. Some families may even invite a dance troupe to their homes as well.
Couplets are typically glued over doorways as a part of the festival's decoration. The original form of modern couplets was called “Tao fu”, a piece of peach wood protecting against evil without any writing on. The modern form of couplets appeared replacing the peach wood with the red paper. Couplets include two vertical scrolls on two sides and a horizontal scroll on the top.
The character “Fu”, meaning good fortune or happiness, is used to express people's good wish and yearning for good luck. Chinese families will usually decorate their doors and houses with Fu during the Chinese New Year. A widely accepted custom among Chinese people is to turn the character “Fu” upside down, meaning the arrival of happiness or good fortune.
On the second day of the new year, families and friends will visit each other and hand over little gifts. Believing that good fortune follow those who are generous, sometimes, even the family dog gets a gift too.
Gifts are money enclosed in red packets or envelopes called “Hong Bao” in Mandarin or you may know it as “Lai See” in Cantonese, as they symbolise prosperity and happiness. Married couples gift red packets to children and unmarried family members and friends to show their goodwill and give blessings for the new year.
Traditionally, children sometimes also receive Mandarin oranges, sweets or coins. When gifting, make sure to give in even numbers or pairs. For example, always gift two Mandarins, two packets of Lai See or two coins. In addition, the number eight is considered an especially auspicious number.
Bright colours, especially the colour red, are regarded as lucky symbols. Red decorations, lanterns and colourful symbols can be seen everywhere to attract good fortune and prosperity for the year to come.
Tasty Chinese New Year treats
As with all celebrations, food takes centrestage in Chinese New Year too and in addition to tasting good, the special dishes served are also steeped in meaning. Food for the New Year place special emphasis on the Chinese word or meaning for “luck” or “fortune” with many of the foods served presented in fish shapes or for seafood to be a highlight during the reunion dinner. This is because fish or “Yu” sounds like the Chinese word for “bountiful” or “abundance” and the promise of having plenty of food in the coming year. Mandarin oranges symbolize good luck, and spring rolls symbolize wealth and are typically eaten to help welcome the spring season. Dumplings are also a favorite for large family gatherings. These foods are consumed throughout the duration of the 16-day festive season, and in particular for the all-important New Year’s Eve family reunion dinner. New Year’s Eve is the time for a happy reunion of all family members, when they sit around the table to have sumptuous New Year’s Eve dinner, talking and laughing until daybreak which is known as “staying up to see the year out”.
The “luckiest” Chinese New Year foods and what they signify:
Fish (an increase in prosperity)
Chinese dumplings (great wealth)
Glutinous rice cake (a higher income or position)
Celebrating Chinese New Year at THS
Here at THS, we celebrated the Chinese New Year with a fantastic array of activities involving students in all year groups. From origami to calligraphy, spring couplets and from painting Chinese fans to cooking Chinese food, etc. We decorated the classroom and hallway with Chinese paper cut-outs. We learned new vocabulary for different Chinese food, and sang Chinese songs during the floor assemblies to bring our best wishes for the new year to the THS community.
THS wishes all our families a Happy Chinese New Year and may the Year of the Rat be a happy and prosperous one for all! 恭喜發財！