Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Happy Chinese New Year
My daughters Sarah, Ashley & my mom at Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong watching the fireworks for Chinese New Year
I do hope that everyone in China gets to see their families. The snow and ice have caused so many problems for people in China to get to their homes before the Chinese New Year. The Chinese people are so loyal to their families, and this holiday is the most important of the entire year. I hope that they get back home safely.
Can I ever forget the thrill of Chinese New Year fireworks with my family during the years that we lived in Hong Kong. The look on my children’s faces and my mom's in that photo, as they watched the incredible fireworks display overlooking Victoria Harbor will be etched in my mind forever. Thankfully I was always with my camera even before I owned a digital one.
Living in Hong Kong and learning about the culture and the many holidays in China was such a wonderful adventure. Chinese New Year is on February 7 this year and it is the Year of the Rat. The year of the Rat is the Chinese sign I was born under, so according to Chinese belief it should be a good year. There are twelve Animals in the Chinese Calendar: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar.
A watercolor painting on Chinese board that I painted in 1993
I found a really fun place on the Internet that is all about Chinese New Year. and discusses the preparation for the holiday.
If you are lucky enough to live in Manhattan The Chinese New Year will be celebrated at Radio City Music Hall with the Chinese Splendor grand show.
When we lived in Hong Kong, you would see clay teapots on display for sale everywhere you went. I started collecting teapots and visited some of the tea houses to view the Chinese Tea Ceremony.
The Chinese clay teapot comes in many designs. “Yixing ware teapots have an interesting history that dates back to the Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279) when purple clay was first mined around Lake Taihu in China. The Chinese have a special way of serving tea, and to watch the Chinese Tea ceremony always fascinated me.
My girls learned at four and two how to say Congratulations and be prosperous. by saying the Chinese phrase "Kung Hei Fat Choi", and bow with their hands together, which means wishes of good luck. They also learned about Lai-See packs, which were little red envelopes called Lai-See, that were given to the children during the holiday. The packets would have money and sometimes chocolate coins inside. The envelopes always red come in so many different designs.
Thousands of people flock to the Flower Market on Chinese New Year. It is so crowded that people walk in single file and hold onto the person in front of them by placing their hands on their shoulders. It is customary to purchase flowers on Chinese New Year and you cannot believe how many different stands there are selling all kinds of flowers. The selection of flowers, balloons and plants is extraordinatry. The excitement takes your breath away and the charm of the happy people is contagious.
Walking through the beautiful Hong Kong Parkview complex, where we lived, many pink blossom trees were put in all the lobbies. Each tree was covered in red lanterns with tassles dangling down, numerous Lai-See packs hung from the branches. At the base of the tree would be arrangements of little oranges and beautiful ceramic pots filled with yellow mums. One day, while my children were being entertained in an activity day at the Sneaker’s Restaurant, I sat outside and painted this Chinese New Year tree.
The message of Chinese New Year is a message of happiness and peace for family and friends, and the history behind the Chinese New Year is full of tradition. The legend of how the animals gained their significance in the Chinese Zodiac is a lovely story about the twelve animals in the Chinese calendar: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Boar.
Of course the beautiful fireworks in China on Chinese New Year are more than spectacular. In 1990 many of the pop stars sang to wish you a Happy New Year. Here they are on You Tube singing with the customary folding of hands and bowing as they wish you a very Happy Chinese New Year. If you scroll to the bottom of my blog and pause the soundtrack, turn the sound up and hear these lovely stars serenade you in the proper Chinese New Year song. When the song is over, there are some other lovely videos to scroll through and select that are exploding with Congratulations. May you have a prosperous New Year in 2008.
What can I say "Kung Hei Fat Choi!"
The song for this post is the Dragon Song.