By Doreen Jung. Gung Hay Fat Choy! In 2013, Chinese New Year begins on February 10th and it is the Year of the Snake.
Family and food feature strongly in the activities to usher in the New Year.
Family reunions and special dinners are part of the celebrations that take place during the 15 day period also known as the Lunar New Year.
Parades with dragon dancers, drumming, and firecrackers, are scheduled in many cities as communities join in on the festivities.
Traditional dances are performed but most celebrations include the dragon dance which is said to usher in good luck and prosperity.
In Asia, the lunar New Year is marked by the largest annual mass migration on earth, as millions of migrant workers pack trains, planes, boats, and buses to spend the festival with their families. When my parents immigrated to Canada, they brought many of the traditions from China with them.
I recall my mother starting to clean our home about a week before Chinese New Year began. Washing floors and clearing out clutter kept our house in turmoil until the cleaning was complete. I didn’t realize until I was a teen that the thorough cleaning was important to sweep away the bad luck that may have accumulated in the house over the past year.When the New Year began our family would set out to visit relatives that we may rarely see the rest of the year. A fond memory was receiving small red envelops called leisee with a coin or two in them.
These envelops of ‘lucky money’ were given to children and unmarried adults as a New Year’s gift. Now I enjoy handing out red envelopes, although they contain a much larger sum, thanks to inflation.
Symbolism and superstitions abound in the traditions surrounding Chinese New Year’s. I remember some of the taboos that were imposed during this time. Washing your hair on New Year’s Day was not allowed because you could be washing away good luck. Crying on New Year’s Day meant that you could be crying a lot over the rest of the year.
Definitely cleaning was to be avoided for the first few days of lunar festival because you could be sweeping away good fortune in the year ahead.According to Chinese wisdom, a snake in the house is a good omen as it means your family won’t starve. The snake is one of the 12 Zodiac animals that preside over the Chinese calendar. The 12 year cycle repeats and each year has its own stories.
If you were born in the Year of the Snake you would tend to be even tempered, good at communicating but rather shy, as well as very intelligent. In a similar manner to western horoscopes, the Chinese Zodiac calendar can be used to predict ones strengths, weaknesses, best matches, and good fortune.
Today Chinese customs are blended with western activities. I went to the Year of the Snake Asian Expo 2013 at BC Place last weekend.
BC Place was filled with exhibits, merchandise, and amusement rides. A myriad of food vendors supplied tasty multicultural cuisine.
Along with Chinese delicacies, there were Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Malaysian dishes. I enjoyed my first Japadog which is a delicious fusion of the iconic western hotdog with Japanese cuisine.A stage was set up and the entertainment included performances of traditional Chinese opera as well as modern song and dance.
There were many competitions which were inspiring as well as entertaining to watch. From the Model Search Competition to the Fantasy Make Up Competition, there was tremendous talent on display.
Dance competitions included hip and hop and break dancing. I saw the “Play Your Cards Right” Bboy/Bgirl Battle. Amazing displays of strength, flexibility and agility wowed the crowds.
From the traditional to the modern day, east meets west in many ways and, in the process, new cultural traditions evolve.