Kung Hei Fat Choy

Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, among others. The New Year celebration happens over many days, not just one day as in the Gregorian calendar’s New Year.

China’s Lunar New Year is known as the Spring Festival or Chūnjié in Mandarin, while Koreans call it Seollal and Vietnamese refer to it as Tet.

Tied to the lunar calendar, the New Year begins with the first new moon that occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar which is why it isn’t on the same day every year.

The Chinese New Year we enjoy here in Hong Kong has evolved over a long period of time, during which its customs have undergone a long development process.

Like all traditional festivals in Hong Kong, Chinese New Year is steeped in stories and myths. One of the most popular of which is the mythical beast Nian, who ate livestock, crops and even people on the eve of a new year.

To stop Nian from attacking people and causing destruction, people put food at their doors for Nian. We now see this symbolised today, with the hanging of lettuce above the doorway to feed the Lion Dancers that are encouraged to the house to bring luck and fortune for the coming year.

Legend also has it that a wise old man figured out that Nian was scared of loud noises and the colour red. So, people put red lanterns and red scrolls on their windows and doors to stop Nian from coming inside and lit firecrackers to scare Nian away.

Equally important of course is the tradition of Lai see. Traditionally these red envelopes are given after the New Year’s Eve dinner to children, young adults and the elderly. These envelopes contain a money gift that is said to bring health and safety for the rest of the year.

Before any of this though there has to be a good cleaning of your house, to get rid of the bad luck from the past year. Make sure to clean well before the New Year though, because cleaning after the start of the New Year means you are washing away all the good fortune.

The origins of all this can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty, with the dates for Chinese New Year being established during the Han Dynasty, with its renaming to the Spring Festival in 1949

The Spring Festival is a 23 day celebration, although publicly it is only celebrated for seven days. This means if you live on China’s mainland you get seven days off work, but in Hong Kong we luck out a bit as it’s normally only three.

This year it’s the year of the tiger, which means that children born in 2022 will be “courageous and active people who love a good challenge and adventure in life. A good year to be born then, so Kung Hei Fat Choy – have a good one wherever you are celebrating!

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