It's a new year


Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 7:15 p.m.

While America is well into 2008, a new year is about to begin in China.

Feb. 7 marks the Chinese New Year, one of the most important and colorful of the traditional Chinese holidays, according to the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.

The Chinese New Year happens every year on different date but traditionally falls on the first day of the Lunar New Year and last for 14 days, when the celebration ends with the Lantern Festival.

This year, celebrate the Chinese New Year with your family and use the celebration as a reason to learn about the Chinese culture's foods, history and festivities.

The days leading to the new year require families to complete some fun and meaningful tasks. By the new year’s eve the entire house should be clean. The Chinese believe that a good cleaning sweeps away all the bad luck of the previous year and makes the home ready for the a good luck in the coming months. So if your house is a little messy, now might be a good time to start scrubbing.

All brooms and brushes must be put away and all debts must be paid. Any conflict between family, friends or coworkers should be resolved — no one wants to go into the new year with old baggage. While many modern families don’t follow all the cleaning traditions, if you're trying out the Chinese New Year for the first time, it may be a tradition worth trying.

Once the home is clean, decorate with flowers — Plum blossoms (for luck), narcissus (for prosperity) and sunflower — and oranges or tangerines, which are symbols of good health and a long life. Buy red envelopes and give each member of the family a "lai see," or lucky money envelope. Put a new dollar bill from the bank into each “lee see” to ensure wealth throughout the new year, and children are give two lee sees for happiness.

Buying new clothes, shoes and getting a new hair cut also gets your ready for a fresh start. Children traditionally wear red or orange on New Year's Day.

The biggest event of the Chinese New Year is a family dinner. Upon greeting one another at the table, be sure to say “Gung Hey Fat Choi” meaning “Wishing You Prosperity and Wealth.” Fish, chicken and dumplings are traditional dishes, but if that doesn't sound good to your family's pickiest eaters, make up a batch of homemade fortune cookies (see recipe).

After or during the dinner, it is important to acknowledge and pay respects to ancestors, so get your parents to tell a story from their childhood or about your grandparents.

Chinese teacher Vincent Herzog of Queen of Peace Academy believes that everyone in every culture needs a new beginning.

“We need to understand that while we are all different, we are also all the same,” Herzog said.

Above all, try to remember the Chinese New Year is a celebration for both children and parents to enjoy.

“The Chinese New Year is very active,” Herzog said. “It’s celebrated all across Asia and many Asians would encourage you to try it.”

Gung Hey Fat Choi and Happy New Year!

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