New Word #96: Lunar New Year

Image by Tú Nguyễn from Pixabay

I was trying to go to HMart, the Korean grocery store, to get some photos with Lunar New Year display, but last weekend’s snow storm made it impossible. So far I haven’t been able to go. Then I searched online, but none of the photos really expresses the overwhelming red color with a chubby smiling child holding an oversized fish–that will be my favorite holiday picture. Failing to find that, I discovered this photo from a Vietnamese photographer which has a sufficient effusion of red color for the sake of festival spirit.

Firework, Firecracker

Firework or firecrackers are considered a way to drive away bad spirits and welcome good spirits. However one has to be very careful since each state and each township has its laws and ordinances that govern how people do firework, especially in New York and New Jersey. I know one or two stories concerning people doing firework the wrong way and having to pay fines to their township, but I don’t know how to write an interesting ending. It’s always the ending that’s problematic.

Dumpling, Rice Cake

Dumplings take hours to make from scratch. Just think of all those flour mixing, vegetable chopping, secret ways to make the filling more tasty, wrapping, and pan frying. It takes several people and an entire food assembly line to make it happen. Actually dumplings are for the old times when women only worked at home with no outside responsibilities. For modern women, it’s too much of a burden. I hope women scientists can work more on the artificial intelligence of dumpling making, laundry folding, house chores, and even child rearing to free women from all these mundane duties.

Dragon Dance, Lion Dance, Stilts Parade

This is the highlight of the holiday. When I was young, I had to watch the lion dance and the stilts parade every year no matter what. The stilts are very high, like almost one to two feet. Nobody could explain how people could stand and walk on stilts like that. I mean how anybody could come up with this idea in the first place.

In the ancient time, actually the Lunar New Year festival ran from the first day of the New Year until fifteen days later when the full moon came and the lantern festival arrived. However that’s too long a break for modern people.

House Cleaning

It is said the sky god would come to visit your home in the new year and it is essential that folks have to clean the house before this important occasion. However in my grandfather’s village, it’s your stove god who will go to heaven to report your family’s condition to the sky god. And cleaning up the house, feeding the stove god, and having a big party to send the stove god off becomes really important. A type of brownish sticky candy is indispensable for such an occasion since it is said that the stove god loves sweets. He will take the package of sticky candy with him and eat along the way to heaven, where his mouth and teeth would be stuck together, which will prevent him from badmouthing your home life.

New Moon

The lunar calendar is arranged that the beginning of a month is always the new moon and the middle of a month is always full moon. I learned that people who use lunar calendar automatically know that the moon has a big effect on the tide because the rise and fall of the ocean waves have a regular recurrence each lunar month. On the other hand, people who follow the solar calendar will have to use a bit of math and a bit of astronomy to reach that conclusion–and of course they learn a lot about the world along the way.

I wonder if this is an example of cognitive reframing. I mean once you observe the world with a different perspective, something just naturally reveals itself.

Zodiac: The Year Of Tiger

2022 is the year of Tiger, according to Chinese zodiac, which has 12 animals, each representing one year, and which is different from the western zodiac. A complete zodiac cycle consists of 12 years. In the old time, one usually told others one’s zodiac sign to indicate one’s age. For example, if somebody says he’s a tiger in a tiger year, you instantly know he is either a new born, a twelve-year-old boy, a twenty-four year old young man, a thirty-six year old, a forty-eight year old, or a sixty-year-old. Usually judging from his looks, you know his age immediately. However nowadays, this is no longer the case. A forty-eight year old man may pass for thirty-six if he dyes his hair, exercises regularly, and does a bit of cosmetic surgery.

Coin, Money, Red Envelop

Lunar New Year gift is usually cash in a red envelop. And there’s always a pre-determined custom telling you how much you should give to each other.

I once watched a show that really upset me a little because it talked about this tradition of giving each other cash and praying to a money god. It interpreted this as a sign of money worshiping. I beg to defer. Money worshiping does exist, but this is not a sign of it. No, it is not. In the ancient time, people have a lot of different gods, probably hundreds of them–stove god, tree god, sky god, flower god, son delivering god, book god, just to name a few. Almost everything is a god. Money god is just one of them. Along the way of the thousands of years of history, when hard times happened, customs were affected. For example, when famines happened, people didn’t have the energy to worship so many gods. So they chose a few most practical ones they could handle. And as we all know that money has always been overvalued ever since it was created, the money god managed to get chosen while other gods were abandoned.

In my opinion, the money god is not a sign of money worshiping, but rather it is a sign of the terrible times people had to go through in those dark periods of history, during which so many beautiful gods were given up.

19 thoughts on “New Word #96: Lunar New Year

  1. Lol, here in Malaysia, it’s the second night of Lunar New Year and the fireworks have still been going strong. Not to mention once the Hokkien’s most important night arrives (pai tin kong), there’ll be no paucity of fireworks. It’ll be like a war zone the entire night, so sleep will be hard.

    Happy Lunar New Year to you, and thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, you just remind me of the old days when we have the fireworks all night long. It always worried some of my neighbors since they were afraid of fire of accidental injuries. Yes, sleeping through it was hard and people stayed up as late as they could possibly keep their eyes open.


    1. Wow, that explains why you can handle engineering. You are a dragon. No wonder. Do you know how busy the maternity wards can get in Asia in a dragon year? It can have more women (often doubling) who give birth, compared to a regular year. Every family wants a dragon. Of course the temples are busy too. Anyway, a dragon year is always prosperous. I am a monkey and my father often told me that a monkey is too clever for her own good–that’s his opinion about all women, not only me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this knowledge and these wonderful traditions with us, Haoyan. It’s always so intriguing to read and learn about other cultures. My Chinese zodiac is snake. And I am so scared of them. Haha! What a twist. Happy Lunar New Year! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, snake is such a prosperous zodiac sign that we often call it small dragon. And it is considered one of the best, only second to dragon itself. I am a monkey. My father often told me that a monkey is too clever for her own good. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to him.

      Liked by 1 person

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