Tomorrow is the Lunar New Year, commonly known as the Chinese New Year. The occasion is celebrated by those living in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Cambodia and Thailand, and countries across the world where there are large ethnic Chinese populations.
I am privileged to share an office with my dear friends Yumy from China, Josephine from Taiwan and Chau from Vietnam. I shall miss their cheery company tomorrow, as all three have the day off, celebrating with their respective families. This blog post is in honour of the interesting tidbits that they shared with me about this special day which they commemorate annually.
The phrase Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin: 恭喜发财) is commonly used as a wish for prosperity in the coming year. Celebrations continue until the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar. This year therefore, the last day of the Lunar New Year celebrations will be on 5th March 2015. Each of the fifteen days of celebration commemorates differing aspects of the festive occasion. More information about each day’s activities can be found at this Practical Day-by-Day Guide to Chinese Spring Festival 2015.
Chinese years are alloted animal zodiac names, known as Shēngxiào (Mandarin: 生肖), literally “birth likeness”. Each year relates to an animal and its reputed attributes according to a 12-year mathematical cycle. There exists a small degree of confusion about whether the 2015 Chinese zodiac animal represents a goat, a ram or a sheep. As a matter of fact, it is all three! The Mandarin word yang (Mandarin: 羊) refers to both goat and sheep, hence the ambiguity. According to the Rosetta Stone, in Japanese the sign is hitsuji (Kanji: 羊; Katakana or Hiragana: ヒツジ), which symbolises sheep. However, the Vietnamese pronunciation of the Mandarin character 未, is mùi. In Vietnamese, mùi is unequivocally identified with dê (the ‘goat’), and not with cừu (the ‘sheep’). Thus, năm mùi (the ‘year of mùi‘) is unmistakably the Year of the Goat.
Nevertheless, one indisputable certainty about the Lunar New Year, regardless of which Chinese zodiac year presents itself, is the exchange of the auspiciously red decorative envelopes containing money. These hong bao (Mandarin: 红包) are presented to each other, along with a wish for good fortune to abound, and wealth to increase in the new year.
So with this in mind, I take this opportunity to wish my dear Yumy, Josephine, Chau, their respective families, and all who celebrate the Lunar New Year: Gong Xi Fa Cai, Hong Bao Na Lai! (Mandarin:恭喜发财,红包拿来!) “Wishing you a prosperous New Year, now please give me my red envelope!”
Saneeya Qureshi © 2015