On Monday 8 February, it was Chinese New Year Day. Chinese New Year is an important Chinese holiday that was traditionally celebrated from Chinese New Year’s Eve - the last day of the last month, of the Chinese lunar calendar - to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month.
However, for my family, we celebrate only Chinese New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year Day.
On the eve of the new year, my family gives our home a complete cleaning. It is believed that the cleaning will sweep away the bad luck of the past year and make our home ready for good luck in the new year. On this night, we have a Reunion Dinner, more of a promise that the family will unite despite our busy work or school schedules. The feast includes vegetables, chicken, pork and most importantly, fish, as fish represents an abundant year.
On Chinese New Year Day, it is very important to honour our elders and our family visits the senior members of our extended families to greet them loudly and enthusiastically with lucky sayings such as, “Kung Hei Fat Choi! Sun Nin Fai Lok! Sun Tay Kin Hong!” Which means, “Congratulations and be prosperous! Happy New Year! Wishing you excellent health!” After delivering these sayings of good luck, red packets (lei si) are well received. Red packets contain money and are passed out from the elders and married couples to the children to bestow good luck.
However, Chinese New Year wasn't always a celebration.
Legend has it that long, long, long ago a village was being threatened every new year by a fierce lion-like creature named, Nin, who lived in the forest. It terrorised the village destroying crops and houses, even eating livestock and the children! To escape, the villagers fled to a nearby mountain. One year, a wise Taoist monk, who was travelling along the mountain road, asked the villagers why they were running away with fear. After hearing about the destruction that Nin brought every year, he visited the village where an old man and his family stayed behind - for he was too old to make the journey. When the monk arrived at the gates of the village, the family told the monk to run away, but the monk said that he was there to scare Nin away.
With the help of the family, the monk hung red lanterns and red scrolls on the windows and doors. When Nin descended upon the village they made loud noises by beating drums and gongs, for Nin was scared of the colour red and loud noises. Eventually, Nin was forced back to the forest by the monk waving a red fan. The next year, the monk came back with Nin, having caught and tamed it, to help the villagers to ward off bad luck and clear the way for good fortune and prosperity. Since then, it has become tradition to hang red lanterns and auspicious signs, beat drums and gongs and be blessed with the performance of a Lion Dance during Chinese New Year celebrations.
As a very special surprise at our Junior School Assembly, we were blessed with good fortune by my Kung Fu School, FitLife Martial Arts, as they performed a traditional Lion Dance to help us welcome an auspicious Year of the Monkey.
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