Chinese New Year Although the story line and many of the traditions of Chinese New Year are kept in Scotland, there is no official holiday and the few people that celebrate it usually do so at home. Although public performances are rare, some group perform Lion Dance, Chinese dance, and martial arts displays at popular Chinese restaurants. The New Year festivities last for 15 days.
Lion Dance Demonstration The following Slide will show a 5 minute video of a Lion Dance Performance taken from YouTube. The Lion is said to be the only creature that the Nian monster feared. It also had a fear of the colour red and loud noises, such as the noise of firecrackers. This is said to be the reason that everything is coloured bright red, firecrackers are set off and the Lion Dance with cymbals was invented – to scare away the “Year” (Nian) monster which came out to terrorise the village once every year.
Religion The main religion of Chinese people in Scotland is Buddhist. Therefore, on the first day of the New Year, many people go to temples and shrines to pray to the Gods in heaven and their ancestors for a better year and success in all their pursuits in life. As a sign of respect and reverence for their ancestors, at the New Year’s meal, food and drink is prepared for their “spirits” to eat as a sign on gratitude for everything they have given to us. The more superstitious people believe that throughout the New Year, the words “death”, “sadness” etcetera should not be used, no housework should be done during the New year period and people should not visit the doctors or the hospital unless an emergency arises. It is also believed that if everyone abstains from killing or eating meat on the first day, they will be rewarded with a long and happier life.
The 15 days 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 15 days 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. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success. On the eighth day the 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 to 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.
Many of the older Chinese population are very superstitious and they often buy pamphlets and guides that tell them what their year will be like depending on their Zodiac Sign. They believe that, if this year is an unlucky year for them, they can purchase Jade jewellery and other items which ward off bad luck or pray at a shrine for protection from evil spirits. Zodiac Signs
New Year’s Eve It is common even in Scotland for families to get together during the New Year, especially on the night before and on New Year’s Day for dinner. During the celebrations, old stories and tales are retold, Lucky Money Bags 利士 are given to the Children, along with a New Year’s wish, and the family generally stay up all night, talking, eating and drinking, reliving happy memories and wishing each other good luck for the future.
Cleaning During the days leading up to the New Year, the whole house is cleaned and decorated with bright red decorations. The Chinese think the colour red symbolises good fortune and love. On New Year’s Eve, people bathe themselves in water with Mandarin peels because Mandarins are known as “桔” in Chinese which sounds like the word “吉” meaning luck or good fortune in Chinese.
Food On New Year’s Eve, a feast is prepared and all family and friends are invited to attend. “Lucky foods” are served throughout the two weeks. A food is considered lucky based on the way it looks, or because of the way the Chinese word for that food sounds. For example, the word for fish, 魚, sounds like the word for abundance, and therefore, fish is usually served as a sign wealth and abundance in the year to come.
Decorations During the new year, flowers are arranged around the house, signifying rebirth and wealth. “poetic couplets” are hung up on the walls, each having a message wishing the reader good luck and happiness. After New Year’s eve, all cleaning equipment is hidden and the floors cannot be swept until the fifth day of the New Year, or you risk “sweeping away good fortune” or even, the most superstitious believe you will “sweep away a family member, meaning that you will end their life.
In China, during the New Year, all the old items and clothing are replaced with new items as a sign of starting afresh, and hoping that this year can be better than the last. Here in Scotland, this is not possible due to the lack of Chinese shops. However, many people make an effort to buy traditional Chinese clothing from China to wear on New Year’s Day. However, during the Chinese New Year, people are not allowed to have haircuts. Clothing
Taboos During the two week period, people never mention the number four, because it sounds like the word 死 which means to die. On New Year’s eve at midnight, all windows are opened “to let the old year out and the new year in”. All money that is owed must be repaid, and no one is allowed to lend money. They believe that if you are happy on that night, you will be happy for that year, but if you are sad, you will be sad for the whole year. Although many of these traditions are dying out, people recognise that it is these traditions which give their family an identity; a sense of belonging and pride in their culture.
The Lantern Festival The lantern festival signifies the end of the New Year. All the children would go out to temples and shrines or in the streets carrying ornate paper lanterns with riddles for others to solve. After this day, the Chinese New Year is at and end.