Happy Chinese New Year – the Year of the Dog
Chinese New Year 2018 falls on Feb. 16, the first day of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog! The celebration can last for 16 days, starting from the eve of Feb. 16 to the 15th day of the new year.
Before Chinese New Year’s Eve, house cleaning and food shopping (enough for at least one week of supply) must be completed.
All the family members come home for the family reunion dinner. Before dinner, the family gathers together in front of the family shrine to thank God and their ancestors for the blessings and protection from harm during the past year. After the ceremony, the dinner begins. If someone is unable to come home in time for dinner, a place (a seat at the table and one set of bowl and chopsticks) will be reserved for that person.
After the dinner, family continues gathering and sharing until midnight. It is a nice tradition. Staying up until the beginning of the New Year allows for family to spend time together, and it also allows time to ask God to bless our parents and grandparents with good health and longevity.
On New Year’s Day, people get up early to go to temples to pray and ask for God’s blessings for their children. Christians go to church on New Year’s Day, too. This is also a day for visiting relatives and friends to bring good fortune and blessings to one another.
On the second day of the Chinese New Year, the married women will visit their parents with their husband and children. The traffic surely will be extremely heavy due to this great event. Thus, people try to get up early and beat the traffic.
Now, you can image, after several days of cleaning the house, preparing the food, getting up early to visit relatives and friends, and trying to beat the traffic (and getting stuck on highways for hours), that no one is able to get up early on the third day of the new year. The third day is the day for taking it easy and getting up as late as you like!
Most stores resume their business on the fifth or sixth day. Yet, the New Year’s atmosphere continues to be present until the 15th day, the Lantern Festival, which celebrates the first full moon of the lunar new year. The following website is provided by the hosting city for this year’s Lantern Festival for Taiwan. All are welcome to come to Taiwan for the Chinese New Year’s celebrations!
The meaning of the Chinese New Year Celebration
For me, the Chinese New Year holiday is a fun time for family gathering and sharing. It is also a time for expressing gratitude to God, our ancestors, and our benefactors. Besides food shopping, people also prepare gifts of thanksgiving and send them to their friends and benefactors before the Chinese New Year. On the Chinese New Year’s Eve, every family prepares many dishes for the reunion dinner. Those dishes are offered first to God and ancestors to thank God for a fruitful year and thank ancestors for their intercessions and protections. If during the reunion dinner a friend happens to drop by, he or she will be treated as part of the family. Hospitality is highly valued in Taiwanese families. I love our way of “adding a bowl and a pair of chopsticks” on the table to make our visitor feel at home! Hospitality is also one of the charisms of the Sisters of Providence. When we open our hearts and our home to our visitors, God’s blessings come with them. They are God’s messengers, and even Jesus Himself!
The Chinese New Year holiday is very close to Lent. Before Chinese New Year, we spend time cleaning the house and put new decorations in every corner of the house and on the doors as a sign of cleansing the old, bad things and putting up good, new ones for a new start. Christians can use the same happy thoughts for Lent: to get rid of the bad habits that hinder our spiritual growth, and replace them with healthy ways to deepen our relationship with God and all God’s creation!
Fun things to do in the U.S.
Here are some suggestions for you, my friends, to enjoy Chinese New Year:
- Visit the above website to view this year’s Lantern Festival,
- Learn how to make Chinese paper lanterns from YouTube and decorate your home/room with them (just type “Chinese paper lantern” and you will find various ways of making them),
- Learn how to say the 12 animals in Mandarin (below) and the characteristics of each animal (the 12 Chinese zodiac signs), or
- Create your own way of celebrating Chinese New Year! Have a wonderful Year of the Dog!