Legend has it that in ancient times a ferocious monster called “Nian” (Chinese for “Year”) slept the entire year with the exception of New Years Eve when it would wake and wreak havoc on the villages and its people. One such year Nian, on his usual rampage, was scared away by a red cloth which was hanging from the front door of a house and frightened by exploding firecrackers in the distance. Since then it has been the tradition to hang red banners near the doorway and set off firecrackers.
In modern times the Chinese New Year is a public holiday throughout Asia and is considered a time of giving thanks. On New Years Eve families gather and sit together at a round table to enjoy a feast which must include a fish dish. When the meal is over, a little bit of this fish is left on the plate. The word fish “Yu” sounds like the word “surplus” in the Chinese language. With this it suggests the family will have plenty to enjoy in the coming year. The night of New Year’s Eve is similar to that which we are used to in the West: staying up till midnight and celebrating with firecrackers. On New Year’s Day many festive celebrations take place. Worshipping of the Ancestors and Gods is an important ritual of the day. I have visited a few local temples recently and they are far busier than usual as people burn joss paper or false money for their ancestors to continue to enjoy abundance in the afterlife. On the fifth day of the Lunar New Year, people go back to work and bosses hand out red Lai See envelopes with lucky money in them as an offering of thanks and wish of prosperity.
For expats living in Hong Kong, this holiday typically means taking advantage of time off with some travel. This was our plan as well until last week when we adopted a 10-week old puppy whom we’ve named George Fang. We aren’t ready to leave him behind with a sitter just yet, so we plan to enjoy the local festivities here in HK.
2013 was the year of the Water Snake. In the way that a snake sheds its skin, it was a transformative time for many. It is said that the year of the Wood Horse, which begins January 31st, is sure to be a more stable time. Take a moment to think of the images that a horse brings to mind… It makes me think of freedom, gentle strength, and riding the wind. Perhaps you can reinspire the intentions you set on January 1st with the energy that the horse offers 2014. I myself am not making any specific resolutions for the year ahead (read my 2013 Year in Review to see what happened when I attempted to plan out the entire year) but rather, I prefer to check in with my goals seasonally and monthly around the New Moon. That way they stay relevant and inspired. Wishing you a peaceful, prosperous, and happy New Year!