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A Festival of Good Fortune

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According to Chinese legend, in an age before calendars marked the passage of time, there once lived a ferocious monster by the name of Nian. This was the beast that villagers feared during the long, moonless nights of winter. 

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Nian lived deep in the ocean and would appear on New Year’s Eve to devour the villagers, their children and livestock. 

In time, the villagers learned that Nian had fears of his own.

Bright lights, loud noises and the colour red scared Nian so to keep the monster away, the villagers would keep the lights ablaze in their homes, painted objects red and let off firecrackers and fireworks. This legend became tradition and is known as Chinese New Year. 

Chinese New Year’s Day is called Guo Nian — 过年 — and celebrations this year begin on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Chinese New Year is also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival and is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.

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In Chinese astrology, each year is named after one of 12 animals, which feature in the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2021 will be the Year of the Ox.

People born in the Year of the Ox are strong, reliable, fair and conscientious, inspiring confidence in others. They can also be calm, patient, methodical and trustworthy. They are serious, quiet and not naturally sociable, which can make them dull but with a great deal of common sense.

Year of the Ox will be celebrated by billions of people around the world and lasts for 15 days. The 15th day is called the Chinese Lantern Festival.

Like Christmas in the Western world, Chinese folk will travel home to be with family for the new year celebrations. As it’s a 15-day celebration, many families rotate celebrations between homes of their relatives. Those festivities are daylong and sometimes, a family will end up preparing two meals for their relatives, one at lunch and one at dinner.

Ivan Cheng, owner of the HL Asian Market on Commercial Way in Brooksville, will be  celebrating in style but not on Friday, Feb. 12. He and his wife, Wendy, will celebrate on the following Monday instead.

“The Chinese community here in Hernando County gets very busy in the run up to New Year,” said Cheng. “It is important for us to be open for business right up to New Year so our customers can get their authentic products.”

The couple came to the U.S. from the Fujian Province of southeastern China more than 20 years ago. Ivan Cheng also owns and is the chef at the Wasabi Japanese Sushi and Grill in Brooksville. 

Cheng explained he and his family will start celebrations on Monday, Feb. 15.

“My family will buy new clothes especially for New Year and we will buy everything red,” he said. “Red is China’s good luck color and it will scare away any spirits of bad fortune.” 

He also explained that we will clear out last year’s old things and clean the house because it will set the tone for a new year to start fresh.

Sharing the wealth with loved ones is an important part of the holiday too. The bright colour red brings literal wealth in the form of red packages that Cheng will gift to children, older and unmarried relatives and his staff during the holiday. These red packages (called hung-pao) contain monetary gifts that can range from a few dollars to quite hefty amounts depending on the relationship to the recipient. 

During the New Year 15-day celebrations, food plays an essential part too — dumplings in particular — because their shape resembles ancient Chinese ingots. The tradition states that the more dumplings you eat during Chinese New Year, the more money and the bigger fortune you can earn in the coming year. 

Food served at New Year festivities are called ‘lucky’ foods and symbolise wealth and good fortune. The lucky foods include a whole steamed fish (yu). Yu means both fish and prosperity in Chinese, so dining on a whole fish embodies family unity.

Noodles is another lucky food. According to legend, the longer the noodles, the longer the life of the person who consumes them. Sticky rice symbolises a family “sticking” together and eating sweet, round rice balls filled with red bean paste indicates a smooth year ahead, family reunion, and good luck!

It isn’t all about the colour red or traditional food. Two flowers hold special significance too during the festival. The daffodil and the Narcissus. If these bulbs are blooming during the New Year, then this will bring good fortune and luck to you and your home.

 

Guo Nian Hao!

 

The twelve animals and the year they represent are:

 

2019 Pig 

2020 Rat 

2021 Ox 

2022 Tiger 

2023 Rabbit 

2024 Dragon 

2025 Snake 

2026 Horse 

2027 Goat 

2028 Monkey 

2029 Rooster 

2030 Dog

 

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