Tomorrow is Chinese New Year’s Eve. I’ve only been in Taiwan for Chinese New Year a few times when I was much younger, so all I remember is the constant ruckus of fireworks, lots of family members around, and general merriment. This is probably what Jennica will take away from her time here too!
If you are unfamiliar with Chinese New Year, a quick summary is that this is THE most important holiday for the Chinese and it is a celebration of the lunar new year. Most people get one week off, and for some, it will be the only vacation time they get all year. Associated with it are lots of traditions, customs, and superstitions. I’ll give an overview of a children’s book Jennica has that explains the story behind some of the customs…
According to the story, there used to be a monster that slept for 364 days. Then on the day of the new year it would wake up hungry and come down into the villages looking for livestock, crops, and people to eat. People discovered that the monster was afraid of the color red and loud noises and would use this to scare away the monster. Therefore, during Chinese New Year, red is seen everywhere and firecrackers are very popular. (And scary! I saw a procession of cars going down the road the other day and passengers were throwing small firecrackers out the window onto the sidewalk full of pedestrians. I was on the sidewalk across the street but I could see the sparks from the firecrackers and it certainly startled me! Everyone else was unfazed.)
It is also custom to post red banners surrounding your doorway with good fortune sayings. Usually things like, “may your dreams be realized”, “may you have lots of happiness”, etc.
The day before Chinese New Year’s Eve is apparently an important day for buying food at the open-air markets. It is tradition to prepare a home-cooked meal for a large family reunion on New Year’s Eve. (Although our family will be celebrating in a restaurant this year.) And it is also important for buying the fruits that will be used for bai bai (paying respects to your ancestors) on New Year’s Eve. I’ll describe that process tomorrow after we experience it…
While at the market I came across an aisle that was blocked by a woman who had her basket of fruit placed on the floor next to her. She was busy picking out more fruits so I stepped over her basket to move on. I was immediately chastised by her in Chinese for doing so because it is apparently very bad fortune to step over bai bai fruits. Oops – now I know.
Anyhow, we’d like to wish everyone “Xin Nian Kuai Le!” (Happy New Year!).