Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Celebrating the Chinese New Year

My little one came home from school yesterday talking about the Chinese New Year. So, we will be celebrating and I'm off in search of some facts...

- The most important holiday for Chinese families, celebrations can last for a month (farmers could not planting crops during the winter)
- Celebrated by family gatherings, gift giving, eating symbolic foods and displaying festive decorations
- Focus on bringing good luck for the new year and celebrating the coming of Spring
- Before the New Year, they clean their homes, pay of debt, purchase new clothes, get new haircuts, all symbolizing new beginnings and new life
- Important foods include: oranges because they are perfectly round and symbolize completeness and wholeness, dumplings because they look like golden nuggets and long noodles serve to symbolize long life. Sticky rice cakes and sweets are utilized in a Santa Claus-like figure, Kitchen God, who reports to the Jade Emperor in heaven on whether families have been good or bad
- Red and gold important colors. Red that represents power happiness and vitality. Gold represents wealth and good fortune
- Children are given little red envelopes filled with money to represent wealth and prosperity and the giving of good fortune
- Flowers in the home symbolize the coming of spring and a new beginning. Plum blossoms are considered a symbol for courage and hope
- The New Year ends with a Lantern Festival. Lighting the lanterns symbolizes the brightness of spring
- The dragon is an important symbol of strength, goodness, good luck and supernatural forces. People dress up in dragon costumes and dance down the street. The costumes are made of brightly colored silks and are very extravagant. The longer the dragon, the more luck it will bring
- Fireworks wakes up the dragon who will fly across the sky to bring the spring rain for the crops. Fireworks are supposed to scare away all evil spirits and misfortune, preventing them from coming into the new year. Firecrackers are also thrown at the feet of the dragons in the parade to keep them awake for the celebration

The more I discovered, the more interested I became in all the symbolism weaved through the celebration of the Chinese New Year. I am no expert, these are just some things I found from a bunch of different sources.

My little one made a paper lantern at school. First, she decorated the paper (then teacher felt a need to add the glitter to my daughter's project. See the steam coming out of my ears. I think the teacher should decorate her own project and not take that experience away from the kids. One of my biggest complaints.) Fold the paper in half the long way. Draw vertical lines from the folded edge that will be cut, leaving a border at the top. After lines are cut, unfold paper and connect the top corners and the bottom corners.

To make the firecrackers, we decorates toilet paper rolls and strung them on varying lengths of twine.

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