Helloooo everyone! How are you? Guess what day it is today…That’s right, it’s CHINESE LUNAR NEW YEAR!! You’re probably wondering why a non-religious, fairly uncultured (because I find that my culture is no where near, if at all, as sentimental or traditional as other cultures) Caucasian girl is writing about a holiday that she doesn’t even celebrate; well I am a fairly open minded person who loves to learn about other cultures and religions, and the Lunar New Year is a holiday that not only has been creeping a little more into the West, but due to the majority of people I follow being Asian, I am currently bombarded with photos and updates from those celebrating this holiday!
And I have to admit that I am SO JEALOUS. It does bug me that the British do not have a tradition where we get together with our family, give thanks to what we have, pray for a bright future and eat tons of food; the American’s have Thanksgiving and East-Asia has the Lunar New Year, but we have nothing because we would much prefer to try and make as much money out of a celebrated event than actually addressing the true meaning of it with our loved ones!
ANYWAY, as of today it is officially the year of the…wait, what is it? Is it the sheep? Or perhaps the ram? Maybe it’s the goat? Let’s get to that in a minute, but first let me explain a little about the annual holiday.
Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, is a Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar which is coordinated by the cycle of the moon; originally to honour deities and ancestors, it is a time when family members reunite for an annual feast and take part in festivities for 15 days. Families thoroughly clean out their home to sweep away any ill-fortune and to welcome good luck; the house, windows and doors are decorated with red paper decorations with themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity.
Red envelopes or packets are given out during this period from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors and children; it was originally to help supress evil spirits during this period, and to bring good luck and fortune to those who received the packet. The packets usually contain money of even numbers, sometimes chocolate coins, and are always given in even numbers as odd numbers are associated with money given at funerals; the number 8 is considered lucky as it is a homophone for ‘wealth’, as is the number 6 because it sounds like ‘smooth’ and is used in the sense of wishing one to ‘have a smooth year’, but the number 4 is considered the worst because it is a homophone for ‘death’. The bills within the envelope are usually newly printed, everything is new with regards to the New year in order to properly wish and receive good luck and fortune. Apparently the red envelopes are placed under the pillow and slept on for seven nights before opening as this symbolises good luck!
I’m not sure how many actually do this or whether it is something the children are encouraged to do, much like the act of placing a lost tooth under the pillow for the tooth fairy here in the West.
Other festivities besides meals and red packets include:
- Parades with Dragon and Lion dances
- Fireworks and Firecrackers
- Offering sacrifices to ancestors
- Wearing new clothing and wearing the colour red
- Visiting friends and relatives
- Exchanging gifts
In London, celebrations are held throughout Chinatown, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square as there is a large Chinese community there; last year I visited London nearer the end of the celebration period, so I was lucky to see the decorations for 2014’s year of the Horse! It would’ve been wonderful to visit London and enjoy the celebrations this year as 2015 is the year of my Zodiac! Here’s an idea of what it will look like:
Chinese New Year really is a beautiful holiday and many other East-Asian countries celebrate it too under the name ‘Lunar New Year’; however we still don’t know what 2015 is the year of, so let’s take a look at what some of the countries are celebrating:
Chinese New Year will be celebrating the year of the Yang (Mandarin Chinese Character Yang 羊) which translates to ‘horned animal’ which often takes the form of a creature resembling closely to that of a goat or ram. Some have said that they prefer to celebrate the year of the Sheep because it is a much cuter animal but sheep are thought to not be very leaderly, and some connect it with the bad luck demonstrated by the failed Empress Dowager Cixi in the Qing Dynasty. Goats are also thought to not be the best animal for the translation because in Ancient China they were one of the only six animals eaten by the rich and powerful; I guess that would make Rams the best translation, but the Chinese group these animals together under one word so technically they are celebrating all of them and any other horned ungulates of a similar appearance, so I guess it doesn’t really matter and that it is up to the individual to choose which animal they prefer.
Korean New Year will be celebrating the year of the Sheep (Hangul Character Yang 양 = sheep) for three days; apparently the sheep symbolises peace, harmony and tranquillity as they have a docile temperament and live together in flocks.
Japanese New Year will be celebrating the year of the Sheep as well (Kanji Character Hitsuji 羊 = sheep); the sheep are considered elegant, highly accomplished in the arts and passionate about nature. They are deeply religious and passionate about whatever they do or believe in.
Year of the Sheep seems to be most common even though the majority of the decorations and symbols depict a horned animal, which means it could be either a ram or a goat. The word sheep not only is the name of the woolly animal but is also a collective noun for a number of sheep much like the word flock; a female sheep is an Ewe and a male sheep is a Ram, so really the animal can either be one of the two suggested animals – a sheep (male or female) or a goat. Because a ram is technically a sheep, it doesn’t matter whether it is year of the Sheep or Ram, so really those who are trying to determine what animal it is should just be looking at two animals rather than three because one of them is just a gender difference. Does that make sense??? Either way it doesn’t really matter, the Chinese don’t care so why should we lol.
The Sheep is my Chinese Zodiac as I was born in 1991, so this is hopefully going to be a year with more luck! Using a website and my information, I have discovered that I am a Brown Tiger born in the year of the White Sheep, and that I am equivalent to Earth; this is apparently very good for me because 2015 is apparently the year of the Green or Wood Sheep which contains both elements as well as leftover fire from last year’s Fire Horse.
However, my lucky element is Water because my five elements apparently have a better shape as the weight of water increases, but Water is opposite and hostile with Earth and Fire, and there is no Water element in 2015 unless I pray that there will be some Water in the Winter months as that is Water’s best time of year when the weather cools down. BASICALLY, this year should bring me good luck and fortune because of the elements that I am related to, but because my lucky element is water it will get in the way of such opportunities; so I have possibilities that are going to be available to me but I can expect to face some unexpected challenges, however this should lead me to a greater feeling of accomplishment once I have achieved my goals.
Lucky me…Nothing is ever made easy is it! I best stick on some Jade beads because they will apparently bring me luck lol – God knows I really need it this year for what I am planning to achieve!!
Anyway I hope you all, wherever you are and whether you are celebrating the Lunar New Year or not, have a great 2015; I wish you health, wealth and happiness!! Until next time~♥