2009 Chinese New Year Celebrations: Kung Hei Fat Choy
Chinese communities throughout the World are celebrating Chinese New year, and the beginning of the Year of the Ox. In Chinese culture, Ox symbolizes wealth and success attained through perseverance and hard work. Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated with family dinners, fireworks, parades and dragon dances.
Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, its years are often numbered from the reign of Huangdi outside China. But at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various scholars, making the year 2009 "Chinese Year" 4707, 4706, or 4646
According to Chinese belief, the Ox is a symbol of wealth and success through hard work and resilience -- a welcome sign considering the country's economic dificulties.
In North America, CNY celebrations will be taking place in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, New York, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
Throughout the world, CNY parades can still be caught in London, Paris, Helsinki, Sydney, Honk Kong, Singapore and of course in Beijing.
New York: January 26, February 1. More than 400,000 fireworks will rain down over Manhattan's Roosevelt Park on January 26, while a parade is slated for February 1. On that day, some 500,000 spectators will watch martial arts performances, traditional dancers from Mexico and Bolivia and live bands playing from decorated floats -- all while a continual burst of confetti poppers fills the streets with brightly colored paper. The January 31 parade in Flushing, Queens, brings together all of that borough's East Asian groups, and Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown hosts the most homegrown parade in New York, with the whole neighborhood taking to the streets in celebration.
[q url="http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/getaways/01/22/chinese.new.year/"]Honolulu: January 23-24. A 150-foot dragon snakes its way through the "Night in Chinatown" parade, which features festival queens, dancing lions, and kung fu artists. The days prior host a bevy of events, including an all-day block party with holiday favorites like jai (vegetarian monk's food), gin doi (Chinese doughnut), and gau (New Year pudding).
Singapore: January 30-31. Singapore hosts one of the world's largest, most elaborate, and most colorful Chinese New Year festivities: the annual Chingay Parade Singapore. The streets along Marina Bay are festooned with red lanterns, and nightly dance, song, and martial arts performances lead up to the New Year countdown. With 3,800 performers painted and preened with gold headdresses and silk costumes, mechanical dragon floats, a puppet parade, and an LED display, this celebration is a modern interpretation of ancient Chinese traditions.
Hong Kong: January 26--28. The theme of Hong Kong's New Year parade, sponsored by Cathay Pacific, is the "world's happiest party." New Year's Day here takes on an international, carnival-like atmosphere, bringing together the Washington Redskins cheerleaders, a brass band from Russia, and stilt-wearing ballerinas from Spain. A fireworks show will launch over Victoria Harbour, and horseracing fans will head en masse to the Sha Tin racecourse for the popular first day of racing in the new year.
London: February 1. Some 300,000 people are expected in London's Chinatown, Trafalgar Square, and Leicester Square for acrobatic performances, fireworks, and food stalls serving steamed dumplings and red bean cakes.
Sydney: February 1. Sydney's Chinese New Year Twilight Parade features illuminated floats, along with 500 dancers, martial artists, and musicians, who make their way from City Hall to Chinatown. Fireworks will light up the nighttime sky over Cockle Bay. Then, on February 7 and 8 in Darling Harbour, 3,000 dragon-boat racers will entertain 200,000 visitors.
Interesting facts about CNY and the Year of the Ox:
1. The food most likely to appear on the tables of people celebrating CNY is:
--Dumplings and pineapples
--Sticky rice pudding cake
Flowers, such as Kumquat, Narcissus, Bamboo and Sunflower, are used as natural ornaments for interior decorations.
2. Famous people born in the year of the Ox include:
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France
Margaret Thatcher, PM of UK from 1979 to 1990
Adolf Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany
Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq
George Clooney, actor
Jack Nicholson, actor
Richard Gere, actor
Meg Ryan, actress
Princess Diana, former wife of Prince Charles
Meryl Streep, actress
Charlie Chaplin, actor and filmmaker
Artists and Musicians:
Vincent Van Gogh, painter
Johann Sebastian Bach, organist and composer
Pablo Picasso, painter and sculptor
List from http://gohongkong.about.com/od/chinesenewyear/a/yearox_famous.htm
3. CNY Superstitions
- Opening windows and/or doors is considered to bring in the good luck of the new year.
- Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to 'scare away' ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
- Sweets are eaten to ensure the consumer a "sweet" year.
- It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year. (however, as explained below, cleaning the house on or after New Year's Day is frowned upon)
- Some believe that what happens on the first day of the new year reflects the rest of the year to come. Chinese people will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to get luck and prosperity.
- Wearing a new pair of slippers that is bought before the new year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.
- The night before the new year, bathe yourself in pomelo leaves and some say that you will be healthy for the rest of the new year.
- Changing different things in the house such as blankets, clothes, mattress covers etc. is also a well respected tradition in terms of cleaning the house in preparation for the new year.
Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese. The character for "shoe" (鞋) is a homophone for the character 諧/谐, which means "rough" in Cantonese; in Mandarin it is also a homophone for the character for "evil" (邪). Getting a hair-cut in the first lunar month puts a curse on maternal uncles. Therefore, people get a hair-cut before the New Year's Eve. Washing your hair is also considered to be washing away one's own luck (although modern hygienic concerns take precedence over this tradition) Sweeping the floor is usually forbidden on the first day, as it will sweep away the good fortune and luck for the new year. Saying words like "finished" and "gone" is inauspicious on the New Year, so sometimes people would avoid these words by saying "I have completed eating my meal" rather than say "I have finished my meal." Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious. Buying (or reading) books is bad luck because the character for "book" (書/书) is a homonym to the character for "lose" (輸/输). Avoid clothes in black and white, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional Chinese funeral colour. Foul language is inappropriate during the Chinese New Year. Offering anything in fours, as the number four (四), pronounced sì, can sound like "death" (死), pronounced sĭ, in Chinese. Pronunciations given here are for Mandarin, but the two words are also homophones in Cantonese. See tetraphobia. One should never buy a clock for someone or for oneself because a clock in Chinese tradition means one's life is limited or "the end," which is also forbidden.
See further coverage on NP's Chinese New Year Channel