Happy Chinese New Year!

25 01 2011

Living in Asia, we have the opportunity to celebrate not just one, but two different New Years. Chinese New Year – or Spring Festival (春节) as it is more commonly known – is the most important festival for the Chinese people. It is like a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas for them as family members make every effort to return home.  This has become the busiest time for transportation systems in China, as migrant workers take advantage of the country’s most important holiday to return home to visit family members.  About 230 million people are expected to travel during the Lunar New Year holiday season – for many of them, it’s their only visit home during the year.

With Chinese New Year just around the corner – in fact it will begin next week on February 3rd – we have prepared a little quiz for you, to check your knowledge about this all important Chinese holiday.  The answers are listed below, but no peeking (we’ll use the honor system here)! How much do you know about the Chinese New Year?

1] One way of naming a given Chinese New Year is with an animal. Which of the following animals is not on the list of names the Chinese use to identify years?
Pig                       Dragon                  Rat                       Panda

2] There is a grand celebration that takes place about fifteen days after the day of the Chinese New Year. What is it called?
Lunar Celebration                             Lantern Festival
Kung Fu Boxing Day                         Cherry Blossom Festival

3] What fruit, representing luck and prosperity, is traditionally the most popular to hand out for the Chinese New Year?
Papaya                  Mandarin Oranges          Star fruit            Pineapple

4] The traditional Chinese New Year’s greeting – 恭喜发财 – “Gong Xi Fa Cai”(Mandarin) “Gung Hey Fat Choy” (Cantonese) means:
Have a Happy New Year                      May everything be as you wish
May you achieve your great plans      Congratulations – may you be prosperous and wealthy

5] What color is the most commonly and liberally used for Chinese New Year decorations?
Yellow                 White                    Red                      Black

Bonus Question: 2011 is the year of the                       (animal).

ANSWERS

1] One way of naming a given Chinese New Year is with an animal. Which of the following animals is not on the list of names the Chinese use to identify years?
Correct answer is:     Panda

While the panda bear is commonly associated with China, it is not one of the 12 animals used in the Chinese New Year cycle.  Here is the list of animals, which follow a 12-year cycle:

Rat Ox Tiger Rabbit / Hare
Dragon Snake Horse Sheep / Ram
Monkey Rooster Dog Pig / Boar

2] There is a grand celebration that takes place about fifteen days after the day of the Chinese New Year. What is it called?
Correct answer is:     Lantern Festival

To our knowledge, there is no Kung Fu Boxing Day – although it may seem like that if you fight the crowds and head to any of the street markets or malls right around Chinese New Year! Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities with the first full moon of the year. The Chinese celebrate with parades and night lantern displays, and often thousands of lanterns line the streets, hung from homes and storefronts, setting the stage for the processions and colorful performances to end the festivities.

3] What fruit, representing luck and prosperity, is traditionally the most popular to hand out for the Chinese New Year?
Correct answer is:     Mandarin Oranges

At Chinese New Year, different foods take on special significance, and Mandarin oranges are considered good luck.  Other foods that are enjoyed during the Chinese New Year holiday include:
Bamboo shoots = wealth
Black moss seaweed = wealth
Chicken = happiness and marriage
Eggs = fertility
Egg Rolls = wealth
Fish (served whole) = prosperity
Chinese garlic chives = everlasting, a long life
Lychee nuts = close family ties
Noodles = a long life
Peanuts = a long life
Pomelo = abundance, prosperity, having children
Seeds (lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, etc.) = having a large number of children

4] The traditional Chinese New Year’s greeting – 恭喜发财 – “Gong Xi Fa Cai”(Mandarin) “Gung Hey Fat Choy” (Cantonese) means:
Correct answer is:     Congratulations – may you be prosperous and wealthy

Often children and teenagers will playfully add an extra phrase to this greeting and say – “Gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái” (恭喜发财–紅包拿來) which basically means – “Congratulations – be prosperous and wealthy, now give me my red envelope!” Another common new year’s greeting is: “Xīn nián kuài lè” (新年快乐) which literally means – Happy New Year!

5] What color is the most commonly and liberally used for Chinese New Year decorations?
Correct answer is:     Red

Red is the Chinese color of celebration, as it is believed to ward off evil spirits. Besides wearing red, Chinese married couples give red envelopes of money (红包 – hong bao) to children and unmarried friends to share their good fortune on the holiday.

It is common to hang or paste banners (spring couplets) at the entrance to your apartment or house. These couplets are normally written on vertical strips of red paper in the best calligraphic style possible, and are meant to convey a happy, hopeful, uplifting message about a better new year to come.

In addition to pasting couplets on both sides and above the main door, it is also common to hang calligraphic writing of the Chinese characters for “spring,” (春) “wealth,” (财) and “blessing” (福). Some people will even invert the characters for blessing with the hope that good fortune, blessing and wealth will rush down from heaven onto the family.  Would you pray with us that the people of China would come to know the author and giver of true peace and lasting blessing.

Bonus Question: 2011 is the year of the Rabbit.

We will be gone from Hong Kong over the Chinese New Year – attending a retreat in Thailand with other international workers from Hong Kong and China.

See you in two weeks.

Joel & Debbie

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A Matter of Perspective

18 01 2011

Most of the time you won’t associate cold, winter weather with Hong Kong, but for many people here this week, they were trying to find ways to stay warm.

Shortly after Christmas, a winter monsoon began bringing colder weather to Hong Kong.  We realize that the term ‘colder weather’ is very relative, especially for those in Canada and the United States experiencing frigid weather conditions around -30° F.  The coldest temperature ever recorded in Hong Kong was -4° C (25° F) – and the only time it snows here is either on the peaks of nearby mountains, or at the Disneyland Christmas display.

But because Hong Kong’s climate is subtropical, cold weather creates unique challenges for people living here.  Most people have learned to put on additional layers of clothing when the cold winds begin to blow, but the more difficult aspect is learning to deal with the cold weather inside your apartment.

With single pane windows, and ‘leaky’/vented air conditioners, there’s no way to keep the cold air from seeping into your apartment.  Also, since there’s no central heating in our apartment complex, it is up to each individual to find a way to keep their apartment warm in rooms where the temperature will drop to 13° C (55° F). We’ve been able to use a portable electric heater to help stay warm.  While our heater is not able to heat our entire apartment all at once, it does provide enough heat for one room at a time – up to a balmy 18° C (64° F)!

It’s not the ideal, and it can be a little cold early in the morning – but it’s a lot better than some of the homes Joel has visited in rural mountains of southern China.  Some time ago Joel went with local church leaders to meet with a group of believers in a mountain village in the southern province of Guangxi. After climbing up to the village where a group of believers were meeting, they walked into a dark and smoky room where the believers had gathered for a time of fellowship and prayer.  A few of the side windows were left open just enough to provide some ambient light and ventilation for the charcoal fires that were heating the room – but the warmth of the room was a nice change from the outside cool weather.  It took Joel several minutes before he could keep his eyes open and not have his eyes tear up because of the charcoal fumes – but for everyone else, they were warm and comfortable.

We realize that in another week or so, the weather is likely to change, and we won’t remember the discomfort we felt with the cooler temperatures. After all it won’t be long before we’ll be dealing with high humidity and hot weather.  But this week’s blog is not about comparing the climate conditions in various parts of the world, but rather about finding contentment wherever we are. In Philippians 4, the apostle Paul wrote the following: “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances”.  We don’t always enjoy the cold weather, (or the heat & humidity) but there is contentment in knowing that this is where God wants us to be.  We are thankful for God’s leading us back to Asia and the ministry He has given to both of us here in Hong Kong & China.  May you too experience God-given contentment this week, wherever He has led you to be.

Until next week,
Joel & Debbie Chute





Time Out

11 01 2011

I had a time out today, and it wasn’t really the one I expected.  I was working at home again, [our apartment is on the 21st floor] and decided to take a break from my work this afternoon and headed downstairs to check on our mail, and to stretch my legs.  I made sure that I had my keys so I could get back into our apartment, and stepped into one of our three elevators for what I presumed would be a quick ride to the ground level.  The elevator began descending, when all of a sudden, somewhere between the 18th and 19th floors, it lurched to a stop.  I was the only person riding the elevator, and when it didn’t resume moving after a couple of minutes, I realized that I would be spending the next bit of time ‘trapped’ there until someone came and rescued me.  There were many thoughts that came to my mind as I waited for the emergency repair crew to arrive.  The first thing that I remembered was the segment from Bear Gryll’s program on Discovery Channel – Worst Case Scenario – about what to do if you were stuck in an elevator. I heeded his advice & moved to the side wall, just in case it started plummeting 20 floors down to the parking garage – but alas I was never in any danger.

After the security guard for our apartment block assured me that help was on the way, I began thinking – so now what?  How am I supposed to spend next 20-30 minutes of my time?  I realized that I had no cell phone – to either text or phone Debbie to let her know what had happened – or use it to update my calendar with upcoming events and pass the time until I was rescued.  But as I was wondering what I should do, the words of Psalm 46:10 came to mind – “Be still and know that I am God!”  I had already spent time earlier in the day reading and meditating on Scripture, but I realized that I now had the opportunity to take advantage of this time out to just quietly reflect and pray.

So for the next 15-20 minutes while I waited for the emergency crew and the elevator repairman to get the elevator door opened, I had some quality quiet time – alone there in the elevator.  I must say that there wasn’t anything special that came to mind during my time out, but at the same time there was great peace as I waited for the doors to be opened.

When the repairman finally opened the door, and I stepped down onto the 18th floor, I was greeted by two fire and rescue workers, as well as two of the day managers [管理员] from our apartment complex.  After assuring them that I was okay, and that I didn’t need to see a doctor or go to the hospital, I walked up the three floors to our apartment.

Now that I have had a few hours to reflect on the events of this afternoon, I have realized that it probably won’t be the last time that I am stuck in an elevator, especially when you live on the 21st floor of an apartment complex like we do.  But instead of focusing on the negative aspect of being stuck in an elevator, I was thankful for the opportunity to take some time amidst the busyness of my day to reflect and spend time alone with God.   May you be granted God’s perspective in all that you encounter this week.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie





A Blessed Time

5 01 2011

A year ago, we were blessed to have all three of our children with us over the Christmas holidays.  We were halfway through our year of home assignment back in North America, and all three of them – Nathan, Ryan & Janelle – made their way from different parts of the USA to where we were living at the time – Salem, OR.  We exchanged gifts, shopped, played and ate together, but the best part was that we were together again as a family.

Twelve months later, and we are back in Hong Kong. While our three kids (and new daughter-in-law) are still living at various locations in the USA, we were excited to hear that Ryan & Janelle would be able to join us in Hong Kong for Christmas.

We have tried to make the most of our time together during the past two weeks.  Of course, Ryan and Janelle had to get reacquainted with all of the sights, sounds and smells of “home” including the crowds, the snacks and their friends.  But we were also able to spend some ‘quieter’ times at home – eating holiday food, playing games and catching up on one another’s lives.

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But as with all holidays, they all come to an end sooner or later. The time has come for our kids to return to the USA – Ryan to his teaching job in Lakewood, WA and Janelle to continue her studies at Asuza Pacific University in LA.  It’s never easy saying goodbye to your kids, especially when the closest one is 6,500 miles away, but we’re looking forward to this spring, when Nathan & Jasmine will visit Hong Kong.

Being able to spend time together with family is always special especially when these opportunities are rare. As someone once said, “Other things may change us, but we start and end with family”.  As for us, when we have those moments, those days together with family, it is one of life’s greatest blessings.

We trust that your Christmas was an equally blessed time.

Until next week,

Joel & Debbie

Twelve months later, and we are back in Hong Kong. While our three kids (and new daughter-in-law) are still living at various locations in the USA, we were excited to hear that Ryan & Janelle would be able to join us in Hong Kong for Christmas.