Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the Year of the Sheep
“Kung Hei Fat Choy!”
(that's in Cantonese)
“Gong Xi Fa Cai!”
(that's in Mandarin Chinese)
Loosely translated to: “Congratulations! May you have a prosperous new year.”
Nope! I’m not six weeks late with my new year greetings. This is actually the traditional Chinese New Year greeting, and that celebration started this week!
I grew up in Hong Kong where we celebrated the Chinese New Year, a holiday steeped in tradition when everyone is focused on family, honoring ancestors and reuniting with loved ones. It’s a time for special meals, decorations, visits to family and friends, gift giving and even fireworks!
Growing up, this was the time of year I inevitably met another distant cousin or uncle, because Chinese New Year for my family, like most others, always meant visiting various family members for dinners and lunches throughout the week.
Oh, what about school? Nope, we had the entire week off to celebrate! Chinese New Year, was—and is—a really big deal!
So, I tend to get really excited and a bit nostalgic as the holiday begins around this time each year.
2015 Chinese New Year—The Year of the Sheep (or Goat, or Ram!)
Similar to the Christmas holiday in the western world, celebrations for the Chinese New Year spread over several weeks. This year, the Chinese New Year started on February 19, the first day of the lunar calendar (the second moon after the winter solstice) and ends 15 days later on March 5 (the next full moon). The holiday’s origins are found not only with the lunar calendar, but also the Chinese zodiac. Each New Year is said to have the characteristics of one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac.
This year we head into the Year of the Sheep (also known as the goat or ram)—a gentle and calm animal.
Expectations for a Good Year
Last year, we celebrated the Year of the Horse. Fast-paced. Lots of energy. No time to wait. The Year of the Sheep is expected to be a more tranquil and secure time. A sheep year typically bodes well for those who are creative, intelligent and team players.
We might be doubly blessed knowing that the sheep is the eighth animal in the 12-animal Chinese zodiac. In Chinese culture, eight is a lucky number. Oh, the possibilities!
When Seeing Red is a Good Thing
During the Chinese New Year, red is everywhere! Every street, house and building you encounter will be decorated in red.
Another favorite childhood memory for me, of course, was receiving lai see, a red envelope filled with money given out as symbols of prosperity by anyone married during the Chinese New Year.
In the Asian culture red is an auspicious color and symbolizes joy. Red is believed to repel misfortune and bad luck. Since we celebrate the Year of the Sheep in 2015, many of the decorations will also feature images of the animal.
Complementing the red decorations will be yellow or gold. The Chinese believe yellow is the center of everything—the most beautiful color. It certainly indicates good luck!
Traditional Chinese Paper Cuttings and Chinese Calligraphy Characters
Traditional Chinese paper cuttings are an exquisite art that began with the ancient practice of worshipping gods and ancestors. Essentially it’s the art of cutting designs out of paper. Today, they are still used to decorate homes during the Chinese New Year especially paper cutting that feature images of auspicious plants or animals.
Chinese New Year decorations often include Chinese symbols for good luck. During the Chinese New Year, many Chinese continue the ancient tradition of hanging a fu symbol at the front door or a New Year couplet with a tiding of good will. These decorations are often scripted in black calligraphy ink on red paper. Other symbols you might see during Chinese New Year celebrations include:
Xi: Double happiness and good luck.
He: Harmonious relationships.
Ji: Good luck and a wish that all is well
Lu: Prosperity, good fortune and wealth
I sincerely hope you have a delightful year ahead and that 2015 is all that you wish it to be.