Sat, Jan 28, 2006 - Page 9 News List

Lunar New Year traditions

By Lai mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER


Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional holiday in Taiwan. It consists of a period of celebrations that starts on New Year's Day, the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar, and ends with the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the New Year.


The origins of the Lunar New Year can be traced back thousands of years. One of the legends is that on New Year's Eve, the cruel and ferocious monster Nian would come out and devour people at random. It was said that Nian was sensitive to loud noises and afraid of the color red, so people set off fireworks and pasted red paper on their doors to scare it away. On New Year's day when people wake up, everyone says ``Gong-xi,'' or congratulations, to celebrate surviving the night.


Chinese New Year is also a time for people to return home to have a reunion dinner (Nian ye fan) with their family on New Year's Eve. It is usually a large, lavish meal. After dinner, parents and older relatives give children or unmarried members of the family red envelopes with money inside. Those who have been working should also give their parents and grandparents red envelopes. It is believed that putting a red envelope under your pillow will scare Nian away, and thus red envelopes are also called "Ya sui qian," money that suppresses evil spirits.


All the house cleaning should be finished before New Year's Day to sweep away any ill fortune. On New Year's day, using brooms or dusters to clean the house is not allowed. If someone sweeps or dusts the house on the first day of the lunar month, good fortune will be expelled from his or her home. Taking out the garbage is also forbidden.

年年有餘 (nian2 nian2 you3 yu2):

A wish to have more than you need every year.

萬事如意 (wan4 shi4 ru2 yi4):

A wish that everything turns out as you hope.

狗年行大運 (gou3 nian2 xing2 da4 yun4):

A wish for good luck in the Year of the Dog.


On the first day of the lunar month, children traditionally put on new clothes or hats to get a good start to the whole year. Most people go to the temple in the morning to pray for good luck for the whole year. People also prepare sumptuous foods, wines and fruits as a tribute to their ancestors. If someone accidentally breaks a dish or glass, people say ``Peace to all time'' to avoid misfortune.


Starting from the first day of the Lunar New Year, there are many celebration activities, like setting off firecrackers and performances of dragon and lion dances. Some families will play the traditional game "mahjong" for fun. It is believed that the winner will gain prospertiy for the whole year.


The second day of the New Year is usually called the day of Hui Niang Jia, which means that married daughters should return to their parents' home. It is said that married daughters are forbidden to return home on New Year's day. If they break this rule, it is believed that they will bring poverty to the family.


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