gong xi fa cai !

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Apparently literally translated this means “Happy Prosperity” but it is the “Happy Chinese New Year” greeting that we see everywhere right now.  Chinese New Year is a two week long celebration that involves many traditional rituals and is a most significant holiday for Chinese families, which is why the current storms in China are so devastating. 

It begins with a refreshing “spring cleaning” of the home that includes worshipping the kitchen god, paying homage to ancestors and many celebrations with family and friends.  Sweeping must never be done on New Year’s day for fear the good fortune will be swept away. 

Homes are decorated with vases of blossoms signifying wealth and high position, platters of oranges and tangerines and a candy tray with eight varieties of dried fruit each representing some form of good fortune.  Bright red clothing will ensure a bright and happy year but washing ones hair on New Year’s Day is apt to wash away any good luck. 

A family dinner is served on New Year’s Eve  that includes a traditional dish of sticky, sweet pudding made from glutinous rice ,called “nian gao”  along with many delicacies such as prawns, dried oysters, raw fish salad and dumplings.  Each of these dishes has significance, representing wellness, happiness, good things, good luck and prosperity.  The entrance of the new year is marked with great fireworks displays which are believed to chase away the mystical monster, Nian, which once terrorized the people of China.  At midnight every window and door is opened to let the old year out. 

All debts should be paid up and nothing should be lent on New Year’s or you will be lending all year long. No one is to use any bad language or unlucky words and especially the word “four” which sounds like the word for death.  If you cry on New Year’s you will cry all year so children are pampered and naughty behaviour tolerated.  Children and unmarried family and friends are given little red envelopes called “lai pee” with money inside for good fortune. 

For us, this means a week of school vacation, which we will spend in Cambodia, teaching and continuing research in information regarding women’s health issues.

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