© Written by Michael Hanna and revised by Daniel Hanna 2011
Chinese New Year 2011
Chinese New Year (according to the lunar calendar) starts on the New Moon (3rd February 2011) after the Winter Solstice and is celebrated by Chinese people all over the world. It heralds new beginnings and a fresh start. At a social level, it is very much a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving.
Chinese New Year falls on February 3rd (Thursday) 2011 (Lunar calendar) 10:31 China, (Thursday 3rd United Kingdom 02:31) (Wednesday 2nd California USA 18:31) (Thursday 3rd Barcelona 03:31) due to time differences Chinese New Year will fall what appears to be a day early in USA & Canada (British Columbia, Vancouver). I have done a Chinese New Year world time converter 2011 table to assist you.
This is the date you celebrate the Chinese New Year with Ang Pow, fireworks etc and not the date you use to place your cures and enhancers 2011 in Feng Shui (February 4th 2011).
Whilst the solar (Hsia) calendar starts the New Year at the beginning of Spring, which falls normally between the 4th and 5th of February, the lunar (yueh) calendar marks the new year on the second New moon after the winter solstice. In 2011, Lunar Chinese New Year also called the ‘Spring Festival’, falls on 3rd February 2011 which is the New Year that is celebrated by all ethnic Chinese. The solar New Year (4rd February 2011) is not celebrated at all and only used for Feng Shui placement.
You may have come across a few websites stating that 2011 is the 4709th Chinese New Year, if you cannot find the reason, here is an answer for you:
The Yellow King’s appointment was held in the spring of 2697 B.C. But they used the winter solstice day as the first day of the year.
So the first winter solstice took place on around December 23rd, 2698 B.C. Today’s January 1st means nothing to the Yellow King. If we count that extra eight days in 2698 B.C. for a year, then year 2011 is the 4708th Chinese year.
Making sure that the house is thoroughly cleaned and dusted is important as this ensures that the old stagnant Qi Is swept away so that new, fresh auspicious Qi can enter the home. The whole house must be cleaned before New Year’s Day. Cobwebs must be cleared out and any old and broken items should be thrown away. Following cleaning, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dustpans and other cleaning equipment are put away out of sight.
To do otherwise would be to threaten the new qi that is arriving and this is something that everyone wishes to avoid. For our home and office it is a bit of a pain as we treat the western New Year the same as the eastern and we end up doing all these rituals twice every year with such a short space in between.
This is also a time to renew protective talismans that are used to expel evil. To achieve this, people will decorate the home with auspicious couplets and emblems with the additional aim to summon good fortune. These appear on paper printed in red or with a red background. To the Chinese, red is a life giving colour, associated with summer, the south and the vermilion bird, which is similar to a phoenix (oddly enough symbolic of rebirth in the west too) and represents the fire element. Red to the Chinese also represents good fortune, fame and riches.
Be very careful when using red inside your home though, I see many homes and businesses that use very bright reds thinking it will give them good luck, in traditional Feng Shui this is the most potent colour and if used correctly can give good results, if used in a wrong location it can cause many problems, so a good tip is to keep colours neutral unless you are confidant of the elements and their associated colours and usage.
In readiness for the New Year, the house must be decorated with live blooming plants as these symbolise rebirth and new growth. Flowers such as pussy willow, azalea, peony, water lily or narcissus symbolise wealth and high position in one’s career. If there are no flowers, the result would be a lack of fruit later in the year.
It is considered very lucky for the household if a plant blooms on New Year’s Day as they can expect the year ahead to be full of prosperity. Plum blossoms and bamboo are also displayed to symbolise perseverance, reliability and longevity.
After you have placed the flowers, then comes the fruit. Oranges and tangerines are two very symbolic fruits in the celebration of Chinese New Year. They are symbols for abundant happiness. The colour of oranges and tangerines represents gold and, together with a ‘hung bao’ ang pow, (red packet containing money), they are offered to friends and family as gifts symbolising gold ingots.
This is a family banquet that is full of special dishes and delicacies artistically named with auspicious symbolic meanings. The dinner will start with a prayer of tribute and offerings to the ancestors and deities at the family altar. It is a very colourful and lively affair when every light is supposed to be kept on in the house throughout the whole night.
Some of the dishes that are laid on the banquet table have superstitious attributes such as: Ginkgo nuts; these represent gold ingots and are full of auspicious luck for fertility. Black moss seaweed is a symbolic food of prosperity. This is also true in the case of a whole chicken which is a desirable addition to the feast. Dried bean curd is placed on the banquet table to symbolise happiness and luck. Lotus seed is seen as another fertility symbol and signifies having many offspring. Nian Gao is a traditional sweet steamed glutinous rice pudding, when you eat this dish you will aid growth and abundance. When you translate bamboo shoots into Chinese, the words sound similar to the Chinese for “hoping that all turns out for the best”. A whole fish with its head and tail intact will represent togetherness.
The reunion Dinner
The Reunion Dinner is a very busy event. The women buzz around the kitchen with the dinner preparation whilst the men either watch TV or (guess what?) play mah-jong. Mah-jong is an extremely important part of Chinese culture and is played by men and women alike, often in halls exclusively dedicated to the game.
Mah-jong is linked with gambling with huge sums of money being won and lost by the players. An excellent memory is required to remember which tiles have been laid down and which remain. Once a certain point in a hand has been passed, you need to pay special attention as if you are the one to put down the tile that enables another player to win that hand, you not only have to pay your own losses on the hand but those of the other two losing players as well. This can mean serious amounts of money.
At the turn of the old and New Year, people let off fire-crackers which serve to scare away the evil spirits and old qi of the past year and to greet the arrival of the New Year.
In your finest and newest clothes, New Years Day itself starts with the exchange of good wishes amongst the family. Married couples present the young ones, children and unmarried adults alike with a Hung-Bao. In Chinese culture, instead of giving a wrapped up present as we do at Christmas in the UK, it is a customary to give this red envelope containing money.
The amount of money contained in the envelope has to be in even numbers. Even numbers are auspicious unless it is a single Chinese i-ching coin on its own. For example, it could be two dollars, ten or twenty dollars. It is amazing how much a person can accumulate in a single day. If you follow this link you will find an article on red envelopes and how they are used for Chinese New Year.
You will also find an article on Chinese talismans below this text; this really is a superb article and you must read it.
The day continues with visits to different relatives. The visiting rota has its unspoken hierarchy arrangement. The oldest get to sit at home and wait for the younger relatives to visit them to exchange good wishes to each other.
This is a very exciting time for the children because nearly every ‘Kung Xee Fa Chai’ (it means Congratulations and May you be Prosperous) we recite, we get an ang pow (red envelope containing money) for it.
Normal procedures return with companies, shops and stores opening up for business as usual on the fourth day. Many businesses will choose a specific day to start business using date selection with the assistance of their Feng Shui Practitioner and initiate the new trading year with a spectacular display of Lion Dance and fire crackers. It is a very noisy and exciting event for both employees and passers by.
Greetings and an air of festivity remain for another eleven days through to the full moon of the first lunar month when another celebration follows, but this time it is to mark the closing of the Spring Festival. Day 15 is also called the ‘Spring Lantern Festival’ (Yuan Xiao Jie). This wonderfully romantic celebration takes place under a full moon on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month of the year.
On this day, the old and young carry a colourful lantern and gather in a neighbouring public place. They gather to admire and appreciate the first full moon of the year (very similar to the Mid Autumn Festival). In China, there are still villages that hold a big Tang Yuan (rice dumplings) cooking and eating session. The dumplings are round and symbolise family unity and completeness. The mid-month Lantern Festival traditionally brings the seasonal passage of the New Year to a conclusion.
There will be further 2011 updates on our Feng Shui blog
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© Michael Hanna – Feng Shui Store 2010
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