Chinese New Year 2016 is upon us and, considering it is one of the most popular festivals in the world, many cosmopolitan cities will be celebrating the year of the fire monkey with parades and fireworks. And although we know that red is synonymous with the Chinese New Year and that lanterns will be floating in the skies throughout the night, there is not much about the traditions and values of the holiday.
If you want to celebrate the year of the fire monkey in the traditional way, here are some things you can do:
- Gifting money trees: Pegged as a holy tree in Chinese legends, money tree is expected to bring money and fortune. It is also a mark of nobility and affluence in the Chinese community and can be traced back to primitive societies where a Sun tree found in paradise is spoken about. For Chinese New Year, people gift their loved ones money trees made of bushy pine branches growing out of porcelain pots filled with rice grains, melon seed and pine nuts. Gold and silver garlands decorate the branches.
- Kitchen God: Also revered in Vietnamese society, the Kitchen God, also known as the Stove God or Zhang Lang, is one of the most important domestic God from the Chinese mythology. He is said to go to heaven just ahead of every New Year and report the activities in every household to Jade Emperor Yu Huang. Based on Kitchen God's assessments, the emperor of the heavens rewards and punishes the people. You can worship the Kitchen God by placing a paper effigy of his in the kitchen and offering him food and incense form time to time.
- Red Lanterns: There is a long history behind the Chinese red lanterns, which are now a symbolic representation of China for the rest of the world. They used to be a practical necessity for the Chinese people and an improvement to the open flame. It then went on to become an object of artistry and ornamental appeal. The lanterns are so important that the Chinese people also celebrate them with the "Lantern Festival", which falls on the Little New Year. They also decorate the skies during the New Year celebrations and are often attached with a riddle. So, celebrate this Year of the Fire Monkey by solving a Red Lantern riddle.
- Open red lucky envelopes: During the Lunar New Year, unmarried adults and children open lucky red envelopes, which contain small amounts of money, from married people. This allows them to pass on their wealth to people who need it most. In China, there is a popular saying that translated to, "You get successful first, then you get married." This tradition is an homage to that saying, while also being a lesson to children about saying money.
- Staying home with family for first three days: This tradition, as simple as it seems, is apparently disappearing from the Chinese society. According to Wang Dan, a professional from Southwest China's Guizhou province, "We used to gather at home at least for the first three days of new year. But now, family only gathers for dinner. Then we all go out to have fun."