On the 26 and 27 Jan all Chinese around the world will be ushering Chun Jie (Spring Festival) or Chinese New Year. It is one of the most anticipated celebrations on the Chinese lunar calendar. Just before midnight of 26 Jan, the Rat (current calendar year is the year of the Rat, which is also the first animal sign in the Chinese zodiac calendar) will depart and the Ox will be ushered in by the Chinese community. The Chinese New Year celebrations run for 15 days with the 1st day starting this year on 26 Jan, 2009.
The first day of the Lunar New Year is "the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth. "Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the new year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them. On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs.
The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law. The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits families and friends on the fifth day because it will bring both parties bad luck.
On the sixth to the 10th day, the Chinese visit their relatives and friends freely. They also visit the temples to pray for good fortune and health. The seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. These farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion.
The seventh day is also considered the birthday of human beings. In Cantonese this is called "Yun Yat". Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success. On the eighth day the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner, and at midnight they pray to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.
The ninth day is to make offerings to the Jade Emperor. The 10th through the 12th are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner. After so much rich food, on the 13th day you should have simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) to cleanse the system. The 14th day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is to be held on the 15th night.
If you are not familiar with Chinese New year, there are many more
customs and traditions that resolve around the New Year celebrations.
We visited Chinatown over the weekend just to soak in the atmosphere of the upcoming celebrations. Several side streets in Chinatown will be closed in the evenings right up to the eve of 26 Jan and stalls will be displaying all sorts of goodies such as new year household decorations, flowers, Chinese dried meats, sweets, food stalls, cookies and many more. You wouldn't believe how crowded it was and would anticipate that the next two weekends would be even more packed. I thought I'd share some of the photos that we took during our visit.