Thursday, February 03, 2011

Facts and Traditions About Lunar New Year

____________________________Story by. Ahmad Yani Hasti

Time passes very quickly. On Thursday, February 3, 2011, The Year Golden Tiger has turned into The Year Golden Rabbit. The celebration for New Year’s Eve took place with the festival on Wednesday Evening, February 2, 2011. My friends and I didn’t want missed to attend the celebration in Chinatown Makassar, South Sulawesi, precisely at Kwan Kong Pagoda.

There are some facts about the festival, its meaning and some of the traditions surrounding it. This year, China’s Lunar New Year 2562, is the year of the rabbit, based on traditional Chinese lunar calendar. People born in the year of the rabbit are believed to be kind, moderate, happy and have good taste, but also cautious and mysterious with a propensity to cry. People who born in the years of 1987, 1999 and 2011 are all rabbits. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, in the following sequence, the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig.

Chinatown resound to a cacophony of firecrackers and fireworks during the festival in an effort to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. All of parents and grandparents give red envelopes stuffed with some money to children. Sometimes, They hide the red envelopes under pillows on Chinese New Year's Eve.

Traditionally, Red envelopes or red packets (Cantonese: lai sze or lai see) (利是, 利市 or 利事); (Mandarin: 'hóng bāo' (红包); Hokkien: 'ang pow' (POJ: âng-pau); Hakka: 'fung bao'; are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Then the denominations of the number eight are considered best, because "eight" sounds like the expression for "to get wealthy."

There are lots of traditional foods eaten. Northern Chinese eat dumplings, which symbolize wealth because their shape resembles old fashioned Chinese gold and silver ingots. Then fish become popular dish, for the word "fish" has the same pronunciation as the word for "abundance." And also traditional cake called Nian Gao. Nian Gao is a sweet New Year cake with a name that sounds like ‘higher each year’. It symbolizes progress and improvement.

Red become favorite colour during the festival because it’s an auspicious colour and symbolises good fortune and luck. Dragon and lion dances are common during Chinese New Year. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the dragon or lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits.

HISTORY OF CHINA’S LUNAR NEW YEAR IN INDONESIA: China for alleged involvement in the events of The 30th September Movement, make the President of Indonesia, Suharto (then), issue a Presidential Directive (Inpres No. 14/1967) which prohibits the ethnic Chinese for Confucius to celebrate China’s Lunar New Year in society. Since then, China’s Lunar New Year was celebrated limited in a family environment. Abdurrahman Wahid, who was President of Indonesia (1999-2001) through Presidential Decree (Keppres No.6/2000) revoke the Inpres about Religion, Beliefs and customs of the ethnic Chinese, and the people of Confucianism was allowed to hold events including celebrating the China’s Lunar New Year. And, since the revocation of Inpres, China’s Lunar New Year is widely celebrated and opened again.

BEFORE THE NEW YEAR- Clean and decorate the house in hope of ushering in good luck in the new year. Getting a haircut, buying new clothes and shoes to get ready for a fresh start.
NEW YEAR’S EVE- Annual reunion dinner with families. Shousui where children stay up late in hope of longevity for their parents.
FIRST DAY- Visiting elder members of the family, usually grandparents or great-grandparents. It is taboo to sweep the floor as it is believed that luck will also be swept away.
THIRD DAY- Red Dog Day (Chi kou). In general, people avoid visitations on this day as it is believed that evil spirits roam the earth.
FIFTH DAY- Birthday of The Chinese God of Wealth. Businesses usually re-open on this day.
SEVENTH DAY- Renri (Man’s birthday) is the day when everyone grows one year older. A special soup cooked with ‘sevenvegetable’ is eaten on this day. Others celebrate with a tossed raw fish salad called ‘Yusheng’.
FIFTEENTH DAY- Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao). A desert of sweet glutinous rice ball in syrup is eaten on this day. It symbolises unity and togetherness.


-Reference: Reuters, Kompas, Wikipedia
-Original graphic by Kinyen Pong
-Redesigned graphic by Ahmad Yani Hasti
-Photos by Ahmad Yani Hasti

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