The New Year After New Year
A real upside of multiculturalism is the opportunity to add new reasons to celebrate. Chinese New Year is definitely worth culturally appropriating. For a start, it lasts 15 days, late January to mid-February.
The holiday is a time to gather family and friends for ancestor worship, house cleaning, decorating, gifts, fireworks, and delicious food that brings good luck in the coming year. It is China’s most important economic and social holiday, now often referred to as Spring Festival. There is no ball drop – but there is a lion dance, dragons, lanterns, and dumplings. February 16 marks the beginning of the Year of the Dog. The party ends March 2 with the traditional Spring Lantern Festival.
To be precise, we are entering the Year of the Earth Dog. (There are also Wood, Fire, Metal, and Water Dog Years). Chinese astrology dictates that this should be a year focused on industry, truth, and justice.
It is tradition to do a thorough house cleaning to make room for good luck. Families remember ancestors during a Reunion Dinner, similar to Thanksgiving. The menu may feature dumplings or a special cake, both symbolic of increased prosperity. Many people commemorate the year by taking a portrait of their extended family. Throughout the celebration, wearing new clothing, especially in red, is lucky. Red is a highly auspicious color so it is used in holiday decorating.
During the first night of the new year, families scare away evil spirits with fireworks and lion dances. Families and employers exchange cash gifts in red envelopes. Village fairs offer special floral displays and traditional treats. The second day is marked with special gifts to dogs. The third day is a day for temple visits and fortunetelling. The rest of the week, many return to work but enjoy special meals of dumplings, pickles, and a salad with raw fish. Ritual prayers fill the next week, ending with the Lantern Festival, in which families carry lighted lanterns through the streets.
Happy Dog Year. (Never pass up an excuse to howl at the moon.)
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