Posted in Holidays on 01/31/2014 11:03 am by sophie
Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the Year of the Wood Horse. The Chinese New Year holiday lasts two weeks, from the new moon to the full moon, and each day has special significance. On the first day, people traditionally visit the elder members of their family and watch a lion dance performance. You can read about the meaning of each day of the holiday via Wikipedia. For a glimpse of how the New Year is celebrated in a rural Chinese village, ChinaFile has posted a beautiful slideshow showing the preparations and festivities. This video tells the story of the traditions of the New Year, and the monster Nian, who can only be chased away by loud noises and the color red:
And if you live in the Bay Area, both 510families and Red Tricycle have posted lists of local events celebrating the New Year. Our favorite annual event is the Oakland Museum celebration, which is a pan-Asian festival full of amazing performances and activities. The mocha pounding demonstration is always a highlight.
Tonight marks the end of the Year of the Snake and the entrance of the Year of the Horse. The World of Chinese has a nice post explaining how to behave to increase your chances of a lucky horse year.
On the Chinese Internet, well-wishers share greetings and cards to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The Year of the Horse allows for especially creative greetings, as the word “horse” is used in various Chinese idioms. A common New Year greeting this year is “马到成功!” which is an idiom wishing someone success (it translates loosely as “Ride your horse to success” and comes from a story dating back to the Qin Dynasty).
The phrase, “马上” literally means, “on a horse” but is used in everyday language to mean “immediately” (because, of course, once upon a time in China, the fastest way to get somewhere was by horse). So this year, “马上” means both “in the Year of the Horse” and “immediately.” Greeting cards are using this to wish people good things, immediately, in the horse year.
This image and others like it are circulating in online forums in China to send wishes for things which are notoriously difficult in China; the image above sends wishes for the recipient to “have a new car, have a vacation, have money, and find a partner” on the back of the Horse.
Happy Year of the Horse! May you each ride your own horse to success, whatever that means to you.
This Sunday, the 14th, is the first day of the Year of the Tiger, and the Bay Area is a great place to celebrate. Lunar New Year celebrations big and small can be found all over. We usually love the pan-Asian New Year Festival at the Oakland Museum, which is the right mix of performances, food, and crafts for kids of all ages. But unfortunately the museum is undergoing renovation this year so they won’t be holding the event.
On Monday, February 15 (President’s Day), the Bay Area Discovery Museum will hold their annual Chinese New Year Celebration with lion dances, and arts and crafts projects. It is generally crowded but fun. More info is here.
And of course the largest parade outside of Asia is held in San Francisco at the end of the two -week New Year holiday, this year on Saturday February 27 at 5:15 pm. More information is here.
On a smaller scale in the East Bay, I noticed during a recent visit that Ranch 99/Pacific East shopping center in Richmond will have a lion dance performance on Saturday February 20.
In the spirit of the season, here’s a song our whole family memorized after a pre-school new year performance last year: Read the rest of this entry »
Today in the San Francisco Chronicle, a non-Chinese speaking mother blogged about sending her daughter to a Mandarin immersion school. She writes:
Since school started, I have stepped back and watched Paris learn Chinese and I’ve put forth little effort to learn about the language, the country, the culture.
And then last week in the car Paris said, “Mommy, I wish that I was born in China. I really want to be Chinese.”
I was entirely unprepared for this comment, so rather than offer up words of wisdom, I simply asked, “Why?”
“I want to celebrate the Chinese New Year, like the Chinese do. Mommy, we have to get haircuts and clean the house before the new year celebration starts. And I want a red envelope. And did you know that it’s the Year of the Ox? And we need new clothes. And we need to have a special dinner with Chinese food…”
“Sweetheart, you don’t have to be Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year. We can celebrate the holiday.”
If you are trying to get your kids excited about Chinese culture and language, of course now is the best time of year to do it. Lion dancers, fireworks, red envelopes, dumplings, drums, dancing, demons… They all make Chinese New Year a pretty enticing time for little ones.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is plenty to do, including the pan-Asian cultural festival at the Oakland Museum which is packed full with kung fu performers, drummers, lion and dragon dancers, arts and crafts activities, food and more. San Francisco holds the biggest Chinese new year parade in the country, on Lantern Festival, at the end of the two week holiday (February 7 this year). The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco will also have a special family event on February 1. On the other coast, outside Boston, the Peabody Essex Museum will hold Chinese New Year activities on January 30-31. ChildBook, an online store selling books and other cultural products, has compiled a list of Chinese New Year activities around the country, so you can find some fun closer to home.