Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Chinese New Year - February 2008

Yesterday I went for a wander around Chinatown with two of my friends.......mainly to check out the lead-up to tonights festivities.......tonight being Chinese New Year and the start of the New Year being the Year of The Rat!!

There were many stalls selling all the traditional decorating bits and pieces, all of it being very colourful........towards the end of the day most things started to be sold much cheaper as seen here:

Biscuits play a major part of the holiday and these seen here would not be able to fit into a supermarket so are sold on the street outside:
Please read the following on the traditions of Chinese New Year:

The Chinese New Year is incomplete without the elegant and colorful decorations that adorn people's homes during this time. The favorite colors of Chinese New Year decorations are red and gold. Red symbolizes happiness while Gold symbolizes wealth. These two colors are predominant in most Chinese New Year decorations and greeting cards. Doors and windows are often given a fresh coat of red paint on Chinese New Year .People in China adorn their front doors with Chinese decorations and Spring Couplets, which are fragrant with fresh India ink, to give the feeling of life's renewal and the return of spring.

Spring couplets are paper scrolls and squares engraved with blessings and wishes for good fortune, happiness, prosperity, health, wealth and a long life. These Chinese couplets have three pieces, two longer ones vertically hung on each side of door, and one shorter one horizontally hung on the top of the door.

Paintings of various such themes are also put up to adorn their homes with a festive look. In addition, the Chinese New Year decorations also include embellishing their doors or windows with auspicious Chinese New Year Children Figures, usually one boy and one girl, opposite each other. They both hold “Lucky” signs and are the symbols of “Good Luck” for the Chinese New Year .

Prior to New Year's Day, Chinese families decorate their living rooms with vases of pretty blossoms, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit. On walls and doors are poetic couplets, happy wishes written on red paper. These messages sound better than the typical fortune cookie messages. For instance, "May you enjoy continuous good health" and "May the Star of Happiness, the Star of Wealth and the Star of Longevity shine on you" are especially positive couplets.

Every traditional Chinese household should also have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one's career. Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Year's Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. In more elaborate settings, plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs, the grouping symbolizing friends &endash; the plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance; the bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility and its flexible stems for furniture and other articles;the evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness. Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow,azalea, peony and water lily or narcissus.

The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of any fruits. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have flowers and floral decorations.

They are the emblems of reawakening of nature, they are also intimately connected with superstition and with the wish for happiness during the ensuing year.

Etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines and enclose a lai see when visiting family or friends anytime during the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one's relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.

The candy tray arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness" and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults places a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.

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