How to celebrate Chinese New Year

| February 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

HONOLULU – Lion dancers from the Gee Yung Chinese Martial Arts, Hong Teck Dragon & Lion Dance Sport Association performed at the at the 2016 Night in Chinatown Festival and Parade in Honolulu. In Chinese culture; the lion is believed to take away bad energy and is looked upon as an animal that roams the earth to bring good luck; happiness and prosperity. The troupe also performed at this year’s Night in Chinatown Festival and Parade on Jan. 20.

Karen A. Iwamoto
Staff Writer

HONOLULU — Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is celebrated around the world.
Hawaii, which boasts one of the oldest Chinatowns in the nation, is no exception.

This is a multicultural celebration, and even those who may not be ethnically Chinese participate.

The official start of Chinese New Year is Feb. 16, and it runs until March 2. This means there’s plenty of time to learn about this cultural tradition.

The dragon is considered a powerful symbol in Chinese culture and adorns many decorations during the Lunar New Year. (Photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

Here are five simple ways you can incorporate some of the Lunar New Year spirit into your life this year.

1) Think of your predecessors
Family is an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations.

While those in the military may be stationed far away from their loved ones, they can still take a moment to gather with their battle buddies and remember those warriors who came before them.

During the Chinese New Year, multi-generations of family gather together for meals to enjoy each other’s company. Make an effort to get together with your family (real or Army) and appreciate your shared heritage. Speaking of meals …

2) Eat the right food
Like many holidays, Chinese New Year is full of symbolism. Sticky food such as rice and mooncakes, also known as gau, are believed to promote harmony and togetherness, like a family “sticking together,” said Karen Motosue of the Hawaii Heritage Center.

Noodle dishes are believed to bring long life and happiness. The longer the noodles, the longer and happier the life. Fish represent a surplus of fortune. Dumplings represent good fortune and spring rolls represent wealth.

Mandarin oranges, tangerines and other citrus fruits, especially when given in pairs, symbolize good luck.

Other popular dishes to eat during this time include jai (a vegetarian dish also known as monk’s food), gin doi (Chinese doughnut) and jook (rice soup with beef, poultry or seafood).

3) Feed the lions
Lion dancers are a staple at Chinese New Year festivals and parades to bless businesses during this time of the year.

It’s customary for bystanders to “feed” the lions money by tucking bills, sometimes wrapped in red envelopes (also known as lisee), into the lions’ “mouths” as they pass. Feeding the lion dancers is believed to bring prosperity.

The lions and dragons are often accompanied by drumming and firecrackers, which is part of a cleansing ceremony. The drums represent the beating heart of the lions, according to D.T. Lee, head instructor of Gee Yung Martial Arts, International Sar Ping Dragon & Lion Dance Sport Association. The fireworks are believed to scare off evil spirits.

Decorations, such as red and gold lanterns, are common around the Lunar New Year. The colors are considered lucky. (Photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

4) Give gifts
Gift giving is another important part of the Lunar New Year tradition. Gifts can be simple, such as almond cookies or lisee with money.
It’s considered auspicious to give gifts in pairs (i.e., a pair of mandarin oranges). Most even numbers are safe. The most auspicious number is eight because the Chinese symbol for eight is linked with luck and prosperity. The number 88 is considered especially lucky. The colors red, gold and green are considered the most auspicious.

Tea, fruit baskets and uncut flowers also make good gifts. Avoid clocks, mirrored objects, cut flowers and black-and-white objects, as these are all considered bad luck.

5) Clean up
Similar to a New Year’s tradition in the West, the Chinese New Year is considered a time to get your bearings in order and begin with a clean slate. It’s also comparable to “spring cleaning” in the West.

The way you start the New Year is an indication of how the rest of the year will go, so it’s important to clear out old baggage, sweep away debris and banish stale energy.

This also goes for financial matters. So if you’ve been thinking of making an appointment with a financial planner or attending a Money Management class at Army Community Service, now may be the time to do it.

If nothing else, if you didn’t get around to cleaning and organizing for the Western New Year, you now have an extension to get it done.

Year of the Dog
2018 marks the Year of the Dog in Chinese astrology.

Being born in the Year of the Dog is considered auspicious in Chinese astrology. Those born in this year are also considered loyal, responsible, courageous, friendly and clever, but they may be sensitive, stubborn, emotional and fearful.

Chinese astrology is based on a 12-year cycle that assigns an animal to each of the years. The dog is considered the 11th of the 12 cycles. The next Year of the Dog will be in 2030, while 2019 will be the Year of the Pig.

The crowd gathers to “feed” the lion lisee, a monetary gift tucked into a red envelope, at the 2012 Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown. Feeding the lion lisee is one way of accumulating blessings and good energy for the new year. (K. Russell Ho, Neighborhood Commission Office, City and County of Honolulu)

The other animals represented in the cycle are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey and rooster.

• The Chinatown Cultural Plaza hosts its annual Lunar New Year Festival from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9. It takes place at the Cultural Plaza Pavilion in Chinatown.

Attendees may watch lion dancers, purchase food, arts and crafts, and plants while learning more about this cultural tradition. For more information, call 533-3181.

• The Hawaii Heritage Center in Chinatown hosts walking tours of the Chinatown neighborhood. It accepts walk-ins on Wednesdays and Fridays and group tours (of at least 20 individuals) on the other days of the week.

Participants can expect to see and learn about Chinese New Year traditions if they attend tours around the Lunar New Year period. For more information, call the center at 521-2744.

During Chinese New Year, many trinkets are sold at festivals to celebrate the occasion. (Photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)


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