FAQ on CNY traditions

image

Remember last year’s post on my Chinese New Year celebrations? Reading back on the article this week, I actually thought last year was cold, but this year was a killer. One day, it was 5 degrees with a negative feel!  But it was well worth it.

For the first time since I joined my husband’s lion dance group, I went to almost every lion dance practice and march that he attended. It was really powerful looking at this form of art from a more concentrated lens and understanding the meaning behind every move, every drum beat, and every dance form. I wanted to know the reasoning behind everything – especially how the lion dancers and drummers coordinate. Thinking back 10 years ago, it was just noise for me as it is for most people still, but the beat of the drum has actually become music for me while the lion dance and kung-fu aspects have become an appreciated study. While taking photos and helping out through the parades, I observed, questioned, and enjoyed every moment I could. It was actually nice to hear people questioning me because it motivated me to find out the answers myself and be able to explain them better.  Well, here’s a few of the simple answers for you!

image

Why does the lion eat the lettuce & red envelope?

Some stores like to hang a string with lettuce tied to a red envelope with money and sometimes fruits like oranges. For the business, the lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune to them. For the lion, it eats the green to spit it back out for a fresh start and good luck to the new year, but keep the money as a reward for its hard work and dance.  A long time ago, lion dancers were challenged with lettuce that hung high above ground, so they had to use creative methods such as bamboo stilts or stacking to get to the top.  In the very first photo with the red lion, the dancer holding the heavy lion head is standing on another dancer’s shoulders.

image

Why do people give red envelopes to the lions? 

It’s believed that it will bring you good luck and fortune. The more you give, the more you get in return! Don’t forget to pet it too.

image

Why are there so many dishes during the Chinese New Year feast? 

Each dish or type of food has a special meaning for the new year.  For example, fish symbolizes abundance and plentiful food for the year as there are plenty of fish in the sea. Shrimp in Chinese sounds like “ha” as in “hee hee ha ha” which symbolizes laughter and happiness!  See this old post for more pics!

image
image

Why is there a firecracker ceremony on New Year’s Day all over different Chinatowns? 

Speaking about New York City only, it’s because firecrackers were banned many years ago, so it is now an electric version that is lit in the middle of a park during a special ceremony.  The firecrackers are symbolized to scare away a mythical beast named Nian.  It is believed that once each spring, it comes out to scare and attack people.

image

Why do people clean their houses and put decorations up? 

The cleaning is meant to get rid of the old. The decorations are to welcome the new year. There are other traditions too that people don’t do on New Year’s Day – no washing hair, no throwing garbage, no sweeping, nor mopping!

image
image

I hope that answers some of the questions you or someone you know might have been asking!  Who would have thought that this would be my third CNY post on Lilspirations? 🙂  Here’s one from the first year to end this post with!  As always, thanks for reading!

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *