Monday, February 19, 2007

GUNG HAY FAT CHOY!

The Chinese New Year began yesterday, February 18th. Because my San Francisco elementary school celebrated the Chinese New Year on our playground, this occasion has special meaning to me. I remember watching The Dragon Dance and The Lion Dance in awe.

Here in New York, I am blessed to live near Chinatown. Chinatown brings my senses alive. During the months leading up to the New Year, the shops - may of them open-air - are filled with special decorations and Hongbo, red envelopes that adults fill with money and give to young people for luck. The gentlman above is selling Hongbo to sidewalk passersby. I indulged in Snoopy- and Hello Kitty-themed envelopes.

The Chinese New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar, so it is also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. Records whow that the Chinese started to celebrate the New Year about 2000 BC, on the first day of the lunar calendar based on Emporer Wu Di's almanac of the Han Dynasty.

Chinese New Year celebrations include the following traditions:

1. One month prior to the Chinese New Year, participants clean and decorate their homes, buy new clothing, get haircuts, prepare food to last two weeks.

2. A New Year's Eve dinner.

3. Firecrckers, which signal getting rid of the old and welcoming in the new.

4. Hongbao - red packets filled with money to symbolize luck.

5. The Dragon and Lion Dances.

6. The Lantern Festival.
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