Chinese New Year is just around the corner. We thought it would be appropriate for us to remind you of what needs to be done so that everything in your house is in place and orderly, ready for this annual celebration. First things first, those red paper cuts; door gods pictures; and the Fú (福) character, for 2023 treat you with kindness, you must not forget attract happiness and good fortune to your home! Or prepare and set up the ancestor worship table with those traditional ‘lucky foods’ — oranges, traditional cakes, dumplings, and whole chicken... all those goodies.
If you are currently residing in countries where Chinese New Year is celebrated or have gone to your local Chinatown, you know Chinese New Year is about to begin when red lanterns are hung and the streets are full of people loading their cars up with festive decorations. And because it gets pretty hectic, you are more likely to miss out on some of the more fascinating things. Like the nationalities of people you walk past as you make your way from one side of the street to another!
Would you be surprised to learn that not all of them are Chinese or are from China? Yes, that’s right, other countries celebrate Chinese New Year too!! The next time you walk down the streets of Chinatown, you may find yourself surrounded by Koreans, Hong Kongers, Vietnamese, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais, and many more.
Now, you may be wondering: are there any differences in the way the traditions are carried out in each destination? To answer your question, we first have to go back to the basics and look at each element that makes up the Chinese New Year that we know and love today; and what, exactly, is celebrated during this festive time.
Dating back to the Shang dynasty (1600 - 1046 BC.), Chinese New Year was based on a sacrificial ceremony which involved the burying of humans and animals in the riverbank at the beginning of a new year. As disturbing as that sounds, they were not doing it out of their fiendish nature. Those sacrifices were made to nature deities and ancestor spirits in exchange for fruitful harvests and rich, fertile land in the coming year.
To fit in with the societal standard of today, offerings of fruits and traditional foods replace that of unethical human and animal sacrifices. Aside from those big changes, the center of the celebration remained unaltered as we continue to pray for a prosperous and fruitful year ahead of us many centuries after. And hopefully that will remain to be the case for years from now.
You know why and where Chinese New Year is celebrated. But do you know that Chinese New Year goes by different names in the countries in which they are celebrated and that celebration looks differently across the world?
Let’s start our list off with the familiar names, shall we?
In its country of origin, Chinese New Year is generally referred to by the locals as the Spring Festival! Chinese New Year used to be solely based on the Lunar Calendar or Traditional Chinese Calendar. This was until 1912, when the local government decided to terminate them and went with the current name.
Spring Festival is celebrated for a total of 7 consecutive days. During those 7 days, the locals would engage in outdoor activities where they can watch the fireworks, enjoy the lion dancing, parades, and other live performances.
Malaysians call Chinese New Year by their name. During Chinese New Year, locals would gather together to enjoy classic foods like char kway teow (rice noodles with shrimps, Chinese sausage, eggs, beansprouts, and more). It is common to find locals decorating their houses and streets with vibrant red decorations, visiting the temples, and watching fireworks and lion dances live.
Lunar New Year is Hong Kong’s largest annual celebration and to honor its widespread popularity. With set starting and ending dates, Hong Kongers celebrate its most anticipated festival with Lion dancing performances, temple visits, and a heartwarming family reunion around the dining table.
In Singapore, Chinese New Year or Chunjie lasts for up to 16 days. During this precious period, Singaporeans tend to spend their time with family, watching street illuminations, and enjoying stage performances.
Chinese New Year goes by a completely different name in Vietnam! Short for 'tết nguyên đán’ which translates to the first morning of the first day, ‘tết’ is based on the Lunar calendar and can last up to more than one week. Throughout the celebration, Vietnamese would enjoy sticky rice cake, fried spring rolls, and whole boiled chicken along with fruits like watermelon.
To welcome the beginning of Seollal, South Koreans would dress up in their traditional hanbok to participate in chayre, a ritual where they feast on rice, rice cake soup, seafood, meat, fruit, and vegetables before paying homage to their ancestors.
Temples and shrines are particularly crowded during Chinese New Year season in Thailand. Chinese Thais would join family dinners, give out hongbao, and watch fireworks and live dragon dancing performances.
Indonesians celebrate ‘Imlek’ with family dinner, spend their days visiting their families and receiving hongbao or red envelopes and blessings from elders. During this New Year festival, Indonesians would eat fish and siu noodles which signify good fortune and prosperity, respectively.
That is how Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world! Wherever you are in the world this joyous season, we hope that you have a very happy Chinese New Year...!! May your 2023 bring you success and prosperity in your professional and personal life — domestic or abroad.
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