Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning about Chinese New Year Traditions

Just so you all can enjoy learning what Chinese New Year entails. Not entirely sure what I'll be doing, but we'll be contacting and tracting like none other to find people to teach and families to bring into the Gospel. This time is unbelievably important for me, and more important for the Chinese people. Please pray that as we go out to teach and preach, that we will be able to do so without bothering these wonderful people and their beautiful traditions. I don't want to annoy them on these important days. So as we go out tracting, teaching, preaching...please pray that we will have the right Spirit with us. As we teach the Message of the Restoration, it needs to be done correctly. I love these people, and I want them to learn to love God. Have fun reading!

-Elder Carter

Information on Chinese New Year Traditions: February 3 is Chinese New Year, or the first day of the Lunar Calendar.  (February 2 is New Year’s Eve)  This year is the Year of the Rabbit, or the fourth animal in the twelve-animal cycle.  Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival because the beginning of the Lunar year usually coincides with the beginning of Spring.  The Chinese New Year holiday is actually 15 days in duration, but only the first five days are official holidays, so most businesses will reopen on Tuesday February 8.  Most people consider the end of Chinese New Year celebrations to be the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, the Yuan Xiao Festival (or Lantern Festival).  The Yuan Xiao Festival celebrates the first full moon of the new year, which this year occurs on February 17.
Please note that more traditional families will place great weight on New Year customs, whereas less traditional families may not be so strict in their observances of all customs.  In addition, the Chinese are not in complete agreement among themselves about what activity should be done on what day.  Nonetheless, as a missionary, the Taiwanese will appreciate your understanding of the customs and traditions.
Before New Year’s Eve:
Most families will participate in many activities, but most important is probably to clean their entire home and get rid of all old things associated with the prior year.  The most traditional day for cleaning is the 28th of the prior lunar month.  (This year Jan 31) but most families are satisfied with cleaning anytime before New Year’s Eve.  (Missionaries will deep clean apartments on Monday, February 7!)
New Year’s Eve (Wednesday, February 3)
On New Year’s Eve the family gathers together, usually at the most senior family member’s home, for a reunion dinner (nianyefan).  This dinner is the most important family dinner of the entire year.  Married children will return home for Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner, even from overseas.  (Married daughters usually go to the home of their husbands.)  Many of the cities in Taiwan will feel empty, whereas missionaries serving in rural areas will find more people have arrived.
New Year’s Day (Thursday, February 4)
On the first day of the New Year, families will visit and pay their respects to the most senior members of the extended family - for example, parents, grand-parents, or great-grandparents.  If they have not already done so, families will hang up New Year’s pictures and/or red couplets on both sides of the doors.
On New Year’s Day, older married people give children and unmarried people a hongbao.  Some children may ask you for a hongbao.  You may want to prepare some hongbaos with two chocolate gold coins in each envelope for children at church (or if you feel wealthy, you can put coins in the red packets).  If you give money, do not give an odd numbered amount (e.g. 3, 30, 50, 70) but also never give any amount with a four in the amount (e.g. four, forty, four hundred, etc.)  Parents give hongbaos to their children on New Year’s Eve.  Most people will not expect you to give hongbaos since you are unmarried.
Second Day of the New Year (Friday February 5)
Married daughters visit their parents and families on the second day of the New Year.
Third Day of the New Year (Saturday, Feb 6)
Previously, on the third day of New Year, the Dragon Dance, (Wulong) was performed, but now this dance may be performed on almost any day.  On the third day, many Buddhist visit the graves of ancestors so they do not consider this day an appropriate day to visit others.  Anybody who has had a death in the family during the last three years will not make any visits on this day.  Others say the third and fourth days of the New Year are set aside for sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law.
Fourth Day of the New Year (Sunday, February 6)
The Asia Area Presidency has reminded us that all three blocks of church will be held on this day.  On the fourth day, many Chinese visit friends and typically welcome anybody, even strangers, to drop in and visit whenever they like.  (The fourth day is a great day for tracting!)
Fifth Day of the New Year (Monday, February 7)
On the fifth day of New Years, most businesses reopen because it is the birthday of the God of Wealth.  Many businesses open to the fanfare of lion dances (Wushi) where the Lion, amidst firecrackers, scares away any evil spirits or bad fortune for the entire year that may be lurking around the door of the shop.  It is better to contact (and not tract) on the fifth day of the New Year, however, the Chinese visit each other freely from the sixth to the tenth day of the New Year.
Seventh Day of the New Year (Wednesday, February 9)
The seventh day is the “birthday” (renri) of all humans - this is the day that all people officially turn one year older.  Traditionally, farmers will display their produce and many Buddhists again avoid eating meat on this day in respect to the birthday of mankind.
Eighth and Ninth Days of the New Year (Thursday/Friday February 10-11)
This day is especially important to the Taiwanese (and Min Nan speakers on the mainland).  Building up to midnight on the eighth day, they pay respects and offer incense to the Taoist God, Tian Gong (God of Heaven, Jade Emperor or Emperor of Heaven).
 Tenth to Twelveth Days of the New Year (Saturday/Sunday/Monday February 12-14)
These days are considered an appropriate time to invite other relatives and friends to dinner.
 Thirteenth Day of the New Year (Tuesday, February 15)
After eating much rich food, many Chinese believe one should eat a simple meal of xifan (rice congee) and mustard greens to cleanse the system on this day.
Fourteenth Day of the New Year (Wednesday, February 16)
This day if mainly used to prepare lanterns and floats for the Yuan Xiao Festival.
Fifteenth Day of the New Year (Thursday, February 17)
On the night of the fifteenth day, families will meet together for a dinner of “tangyuan” (a sweet glutinous rice ball cooked in soup). Which symbolizes completeness, togetherness and happiness.  Some Chinese consider this day as a Minor Lunar New Year and this day generally marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.  At night, families will walk the streets and parks carrying lanterns.

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