Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the new moon of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar, and welcomes the Year of the Rooster. All over China, as well as in many other places throughout the world, this is a 15-day period of celebration. Chinese New Year is rich with ancient customs, including cleaning and decorating the house with colorful lanterns, streamers, garlands and lucky symbols, paying all debts, getting a haircut, buying new clothes, preparing a New Year's Eve banquet, lighting firecrackers, performing rituals to honor ancestors, giving red Hongbao envelopes full of lucky money to children, exchanging Bai Lin greetings and gifts of fruit and candy with visits to relatives, friends and neighbors, performing the Dragon and Lion dances, and finally, ending with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the New Year.

The New Year's Eve banquet traditionally includes many symbolic foods such as Chinese dumplings shaped like ancient Chinese gold or silver ingots to symbolize wealth, whole fish to symbolize family unity, and uncut noodles to symbolize longevity. A spirited beverage called Jiu is also used to raise a toast to the New Year.

There are also many superstitions associated with the New Year. Things that should be avoided are: sweeping or dusting, using scissors or knives, crying, washing hair, exchanging greetings in bedrooms, and speaking bad or unlucky words. Considered especially lucky are: wearing red clothing, departing from home in an auspicious direction, and seeing red birds or hearing birds singing.

Much emphasis is placed upon the significance of one's actions and experiences on New Year's Day, for the Chinese people believe that whatever you do on New Year's Day, whether good or bad, will continue all year long. The traditional Chinese New Year greeting is "Kung Hei Fat Choy!" which means that you wish the recipient wealth and prosperity throughout the coming year.