Tuesday, October 11, 2005

CHINESE NEW YEAR FESTIVAL

Celebrated by the Chinese community, Chinese New Year occurs usually during mid-January to mid-February. 2006 is the Year of the Dog. January 29, 2006 is the first day of the New Year.

PREPARATION:
Although the climax of Chinese New Year’s celebration generally only last for four or five days including the eve, the New Year season actually started from early twelfth month of the previous year to the middle of the first month of the New Year. Preparations begin about a month before Chinese New Year, where the Chinese community will be busy shopping for decoration materials, food and drinks, new clothing, groceries and titbits.

A major clean up of the house will be carried out, hoping to sweep away any traces of bad luck to make way for the wishful in-coming good luck and fortune. After that, the house is ready to be decorated with paper scrolls and couplets inscribed with blessings and auspicious words like happiness, longevity, and wealth.

REUNION DINNER:
On the Chinese New Year's Eve, grand banquets are prepared in each household. The luxurious dishes at this dinner all have auspicious meanings. Few days before the eve of Chinese New Year, people living far away from their families will begin to prepare for their journey home. Traffic jams will start to build up on highways while airports, bus terminals, and train stations are normally packed. Tickets are usually being snapped up the moment they go on sale. No matter how tiring the journey may turn out to be, it is certainly worth it when all the family members have gathered around the table to enjoy their Chinese New Year’s eve dinner (or reunion dinner), the most important meal of the year. Usually everyone will go back to the parents house or the eldest in the family.

CHINESE NEW YEAR:
On the first day of Chinese New Year, ritual homage is offered to one’s ancestors and reverence is paid to the gods. New clothes are worn and younger family members will greet their elders “Kong Xi Fatt Chai” (in Mandarin) or “Kong Hei Fatt Choi” (in Cantonese), meaning, “congratulations and prosperity”. In return, they will receive “Ang Pow”, a red packet containing cash. It is given by married couples to children and singles.

VISITING:
During Chinese New Year’s day and several days that follow, the Chinese will hold open houses. This is the time when relatives and friends, regardless of their races and religions, will visit one another, exchanging good wishes and gifts like tangerines (called “Kam” in Cantonese, meaning “Gold”) and other traditional New Year’s delicacies.

SEVENTH DAY:
The seventh day of Chinese New Year is known as “everybody’s birthday”. On this day, the Chinese will eat “Yee Sang”, a combination of pickled ginger, shredded vegetables, lime, raw fish and various sauces. This meal is believed to bring prosperity and good fortune to those who eat it. The participants will mix and raise the ingredients with their chopsticks. They believe the higher they are able to raise them, the greater the prosperity they will enjoy throughout the year.

EIGHTH DAY:
On the eighth day, the Hokkien community will have another family reunion. At midnight, they will pray to “Tian Gung”, the God of Heaven.

NINTH DAY:
On the ninth day, numerous offerings are set out in the forecourt or central courtyard of temples to celebrate the birthday of the Jade Emperor.

CHAP GOH MEH:
The 15th day is Chap Goh Mei. It marks the end of Chinese New Year’s celebration. The highlight of Chap Goh Meh, which is often regarded as the Chinese Valentine's day, has got to be the throwing of oranges into the river. It is believed that maidens would attract good husbands if they adhere to this practice.

OPEN HOUSE (NATIONAL):
As festivities in Malaysia are celebrated by ALL communities, the open house concept bears testimony to the fact that tolerance and mutual respect are evidently observed in this multi-racial country. In fact, this is a very unique practice in Malaysia that symbolises the unique diversity of culture and religion here. Like other major celebrations in the country, Chinese New Year is also celebrated at national level where open house will be held. Malaysians, as well as tourists around the world, are welcome to join in the celebration of this auspicious event. There will be an array of local delicacies for all the guests, cultural show and other performances.

The Chingay parade adds to the festive atmosphere with stilt walkers, lion and dragon dances, acrobats, and dozens of decorated floats taking to the streets amidst the clashing of cymbals and beating of gongs and drums. Penang is the place to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

BY WENDY