Lunar New Year 2021 – Year of the Ox – February 12, 2021

I don’t normally post anything outside of the topic of postpartum depression–because, after all, this is a PPD blog– but I did say in my last 2 posts that I was fighting the blues (and I’ve since beat it, thankfully!). Being cooped up with nowhere to go and during a season I hate the most (short, cold days) has been contributing to my feeling down. The constant feeling of being a misfit has been haunting me as well. I’ve blogged about this before here and here. The past 4 years of disturbing news on attacks on Asians in the U.S. has been a painful reminder of my experience growing up in a predominantly white area, dealing with racism much of my life and especially during my teenage years. Today, I live in a predominantly white area and participating in my town’s initiative to encourage diversity and inclusion within the community. If citizens of each community were to take part in such initiatives, our communities would be even better places to live! Racism comes from stereotypes that come from ignorance that comes from fear. Communication and information have the power to wipe away all of that! But it takes a unified effort from within each and every community. There should be a ZERO tolerance for hate and racism!

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to help a local diversity group to come up with information to share about the Lunar New Year, which this year will land on February 12, 2021 and go for 15 days until February 26, 2021.  I am honored to be part of the Advisory Council for that group, and that they adapted the information below to share with our community.  

Enjoy, and many thanks for taking the time to read and share! And to all those who celebrate, Happy Lunar New Year!

Warmly,
Ivy

 


Interesting Facts about Lunar New Year

I created a 1-pager (link below) that contains 8 (8 is a lucky number for the Chinese) key points on the Lunar New Year on one side and a little tutorial on stroke order for the ox character in Chinese plus a fun Word Search activity on the other side. This piece is great for sharing with kids and raise their interest and appreciation at an early age of the East Asian cultures that celebrate Lunar New Year!

The information contained in my blog post below is lengthier and couldn’t be jammed into a 1-page document about Lunar New Year. Some of the information is even new to me, and all of it is just so fascinating that I had to share! Thank you for reading and sharing!

1.Chinese New Year is also referred to as the Lunar New Year.  Lunar New Year is celebrated by many countries, including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. Lunar New Year marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar, which is determined by the cycles of the moon and sun. This means that the date is always different each year (sometime between Jan 21-Feb 20).

2.The Chinese New Year is celebrated in 12-year cycles, with each year of the cycle represented by a different animal. Occupying the 2nd position of the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, the Ox symbolizes such character traits as diligence, dependability, persistence, loyalty, honesty, and patience.

Oxen are also industrious, independent, faithful, cautious, responsible, and hard working. Cautious and careful, Oxen take a long time to think things through before taking any action. Once they make up their minds, they will stick to it. Apprehensive of change, Oxen are happiest when their life, job, and relationships are stable. They tend to form strong and long-lasting friendships and often have a small but solid circle of friends. They prefer to search long and hard for the perfect partner before settling down. Oxen tend to be natural leaders who are good at managing, but may be a little strict. Their focus and persistence make most of them endure long hours of doing whatever work impassions them. Oxen believe that the road to success involves hard work, and they don’t believe in taking shortcuts. They are more productive when allowed to work alone, in a quiet environment, and at their own pace. They aren’t very sociable, abhor small talk, and tend to avoid participating in group activities. They like routines and doing things their own way. Their focus, hard work, and persistence lead to long hours but in the long run they are able to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

3. “Happy New Year” is pronounced differently in Mandarin and Cantonese. The 2 dialects have the same written language, but differ in pronunciation. The traditional Chinese New Year greeting is “Congratulations and hope you get rich.” In Mandarin it’s “Gong Xi Fa Cai,” while in Cantonese it’s “Gung Hay Fat Choy.” Then, there is the other Happy New Year greeting, which literally means “Happy New Year.” In Mandarin it’s “Xin Nian Kwai Le,” while in Cantonese it’s “San Nin Fai Lok.”

4. The most common Chinese New Year gifts are red envelopes. Red envelopes typically contain money, and are gifted by older members of the family to their younger relatives. Red envelopes usually contain money ranging anywhere from a couple of dollars—after all, it’s supposed to be symbolic of sending good wishes/luck—to any amount of money that the giver can afford or deems appropriate.  Adults who are not yet married would not need to give red envelopes to others.  Parents/grandparents may continue to give red envelopes to their married children/grandchildren as a symbol of their love and blessings for them. But red envelopes are not limited to Chinese New Year. It is common to give a red envelope during some special occasions, such as weddings, graduations, baby showers, and milestone birthdays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. There are specific foods in each country that are believed to bring good fortune. Here are some examples:

  • China: yú (fish sounds like the word for “abundance”), tang yuan (glutinous sweet rice balls represent togetherness), oranges (sound like “wealth”), long noodles (symbolize long life), and dumplings (resemble ancient gold ingots)
  • Taiwan: Luo bo gao (radish cakes made with glutinous rice flour)
  • Korea: Tteokguk (rice cake soup) and manduguk (dumpling soup)
  • Vietnam: Bánh chưng (sticky rice cakes made with mung beans and pork and steamed in banana leaves)

6. The origin of Chinese New Year celebrations is based on the legend of Nian, a beast that appeared at the end of each year and terrified villagers. The villagers discovered that Nian feared the color red. Thus, red has become a lucky color, and during New Year festivities, streets, businesses, and houses are decorated with red lanterns, banners, etc. The villagers also discovered that the explosive sound created by burning dry bamboo scared Nian away. Thus, it became a tradition to set off firecrackers at midnight on New Year’s Eve and again in the morning on New Year’s Day to bring good luck for the new year. For more details, check out this video: The Legend of Chinese New Year.

    • INTERESTING FACT: Firecrackers were invented during the Tang Dynasty 618-907 from the accidental discovery that inserting gunpowder into a hollow bamboo stick and throwing it into fire would cause a loud blast. Paper tubes ultimately replaced bamboo stalks during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). And then of course, firecrackers had to be wrapped in red. If you ever wondered why the red paper from spent firecrackers is left around for at least a day, it’s based on the belief that if the paper away is swept away immediately, good luck would be swept along with it.6.

7. Lion and dragon dances are performed in Lunar New Year parades all over the world! Both dragons and lions are mythical, spectacularly-colored creatures, which bring good luck. Dragon dances are usually performed by 9 people holding up the dragon with poles who make the dragon move in a flowing motion, usually chasing a pearl.  Lion dances are performed by martial artists, with 1 person acting as the head and front legs and a 2nd person acting as the tail and rear legs.  Performed to the beat of a drum, gongs and cymbals, the 2 dancers jump and roll in unison, and perform many difficult acrobatic moves as they search for red envelopes containing money.

8. Chinese New Year festivities last for 15 days! Celebrations begin with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later. This year, the Chinese New Year ends on Feb 26, with a Lantern Festival and beautifully-colored lanterns, lion and dragon dances, and fireworks.

More Fascinating Facts

Chinese Calligraphy
The Chinese character is derived from the pictogram of an ox:

Stroke order for the most part always goes from left to right, top to bottom. Also, generally, when a horizontal and vertical line cross, the horizontal lines are written first.  

NOTE: A great resource for stroke order rules: https://www.writtenchinese.com/chinese-character-stroke-order-rules/

The largest human migration in the world

Did you know that 3 billion trips are made each year (including return trips) to visit relatives by plane, train and automobile to celebrate Chinese New Year?  Referred to as chunyun (春运), it is the travel period up to 15 days before the week-long observance of China’s Spring Festival (or chunjie (春) and up to 40 days. It is up to 40 days in part due to the lack of transportation options available for the millions to make each one-way trek during the same timeframe.  Depending on one’s luck in buying airplane/train/bus tickets, travelers end up traveling within the window 15 days prior to the start of and 15 days after chunjie ends. This year, chunjie starts on February 11 (New Year’s Eve) and ends on February 17. In modern China, most elderly parents still live in the rural villages of their ancestors, while the younger generation works in the cities.  Why do they call it Spring Festival when it takes place during the winter?  The Festival marks the end of the coldest days of winter, with people welcoming the coming spring with planting, which represents new beginnings and fresh starts.

Most & Least Compatible Signs

Most Compatible Signs: Rat, Snake, Rooster
Least Compatible Signs: Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Sheep

A few celebrities who were born during the year of the OX

Barack Obama Princess Di Malala Yousafzai Simone Biles
Walt Disney Robert F Kennedy Renoir Johann Sebastian Bach
Napoleon Megan Rapinoe Meryl Streep Louis Armstrong
Colin Powell Jack Nicholson Dustin Hoffman Gerald Ford
George Clooney B.B. King Michael Phelps Morgan Freeman
Malcolm X Jane Fonda Peter Jackson Yogi Berra
Boy George Johnny Carson Billy Joel Eddie Murphy
Bruno Mars Margaret Thatcher Bruce Springsteen George Takei
Anthony Hopkins Charles Schwab Richard Burton Sammy Davis Jr.
Dick Van Dyke Alfonso Cuaron Paul Newman Sigourney Weaver

More on Chinese New Year red envelopes

Etiquette:

1. Do gift crisp, new bills, as gifting dirty or wrinkled bills is in bad taste.

2. Do receive a red envelope with both hands and express thanks with an appropriate phrase. It is considered impolite to receive a red envelope with one hand and not express thanks with an appropriate phrase.

3. Don’t gift coins.

4.  Don’t give amounts starting with the number 4, like $4, $40 or $400.  The number ‘4’ Chinese sounds like ‘death’ and is therefore considered bad luck. Even numbers are better than odd numbers.  The number ‘8’ is considered good luck, so gifts like $8, $80 or $88 would be best.

5. Don’t open your red envelope in front of the person who just gave it to you.

Taboos and Superstitions

As in practically all other cultures around the world, there are a lot of taboos and superstitions adapted over the course of centuries, all of which have the intent of attracting good fortune into the New Year and protecting against bad fortune.

Do’s:

  • Do talk about good, happy things to set the tone for the new year
  • Do pay back your debts before the new year starts
  • Do wear red because red is the luckiest color

Don’ts:           

  • Don’t cut your hair on during the New Year, as that would cause connections to be severed
  • Don’t wear black or white, as both colors are associated with mourning
  • Don’t wash your hair or do laundry on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that would wash good fortune away
  • Don’t sweep on the 1st or 2nd day of the new year, as that will sweep away accrued wealth / luck
  • Don’t cry or argue, as that will bring bad fortune

 

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