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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One response

27 01 2011
lindimity

Happy New Year! Enjoy your ‘vacation’ in Thailand.

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