Guest Author - Caroline Baker
Chinese New Years is a wonderful time of the year. It is filled with family and friends and reminders of how wonderful life can be. It’s a time to reflect on what has happened in the past year and what our hopes are for the future.
For youngsters, in many ways Chinese New Years is like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween rolled into one. As a youth, meaning in many Chinese traditions any person too young to be married yet, you would receive a haung bao or “red envelope” filled with money. The idea behind the tradition is simply a looking into the past and the future. The children are our future, we must treasure them and give them riches that they will have a full life. The past, or our ancestors, are honored in many ways throughout the Chinese New Years festivals, from the foods cooked to the lanterns burned.
Speaking of which, Chinese New Years lasts for fifteen days. In ancient times, this would be a time where no work was done. People would go from house to house visiting their relatives and close friends. Traditions and superstitions would fill the two weeks with many things to do. And the Halloween reference comes from the many sweets that would be served -- for sweet foods are a symbol of a sweet year to come.
Chinese New Years today in our busy society has taken a very different look. While many of the old customs and traditions still survive, like burning fireworks and incense, visiting loved ones and close friends, and serving different types of foods, the events have to fit around the lifestyles of today. Chinese New Years is mostly celebrated now on one day or a series of days to share with friends or family. Many don’t even celebrate it on the “official” day but rather the closest weekend or most convenient time for everyone to gather.
There are many books out as well to keep the traditions alive and share with the younger generation the meanings behind certain events. A beautiful one that I just recently discovered is called My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz. This kid-friendly illustrated book does a nice job of talking about Chinese New Years and some of the meaning behind the customs associated with this important day.