Chinese New Year is here so the Year of the Pig has arrived. The pig, also referred to as a boar, is the last animal of the 12 year lunar cycle. There is a folk tale that explains the order the animals appear in the Chinese zodiac. If you’ve ever read a placemat at many Chinese restaurants you already know that each animal has distinct personality characteristics and the animal sign you are born under influences the life you will have.
Wherever there is a large Chinese population, you can bet you’ll find a celebration. Some places like in Singapore and Taiwan have celebrations over a 15 day period. This is a major time for folks to head out on vacation. I know, I used to live in both countries. We headed out ourselves along with everyone else scrambling for plane tickets. If you’re traveling to any of these places, be prepared that some businesses may not be open, at least not if they are run by a Chinese person. This is the time for visiting family and relaxation.
Here are some things to look for to help you celebrate.
- Hung Bao (Ang Pow)– Red envelopes mean prosperity, long life and good fortune. Usually adults put money in the envelopes and pass them out to children.
- Firecrackers – Their loud bang scares away evil spirits and bad luck and also brings spring rain for crops.
- Lion Dance– The dancers wear a stylized lion’s head mask and mimic the movements of a lion. (It’s actually more involved than that). The lion scares away evil spirits and brings happiness and good fortune.
- Live flowers stand for rebirth and growth.
- Oranges and tangerines stand for “abundant happiness.”
A traditional Chinese New Year food to look for is zong zi which is glutinous rice wrapped up in leaves and steamed. Some have peanuts, egg and meat inside and can be found at many Asian grocery stores. I even can get them in Columbus, Ohio.
Here are links to various Chinese New Year celebrations around the world.
The photo is of a card designed by Chia-yi Fan for a New Year card design contest in Taiwan.