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Auspicious Wishes for 2005

Dearest Friends,

Here's wishing you a prosperous Lunar New Year accompanied with smooth sailing for the rest of Wood Rooster months!

A lot of us have definitely heard or read about Lunar New Year and its celebrations, but i was thinking of letting know you a bit more about it and how some of us here celebrate it as well as some of the customs that might not be so well known. In many Asian countries, it is a public holiday on the first two days of Lunar New Year. In places like China, employees get the whole week off! Be sure to put your mouse arrow over the pictures for additional information :). This is not really a Feng Shui article, but i think it will at least help us give a basic understanding of culture in where it came from.

Eve of Chinese New Year
It's said that all sons should return to their parents' place for that evening. The night is usually spent by giving food offerings to our ancestors (with special prayers for grandparents and parents who have passed on). In chinese culture, it's always a sign of respect to let the elder eat first, and we extend this respect to those deceased. When we pray, we ask the dieties in the afterlife to take care of our loved ones (there are also given offerings first). Many of us will ask for forgiveness and the strength to enter the new year with blessings. After we have finished this ritual, it is time for us to eat and be merry! It might seem like a grim affair to the outsider, but the house is usually filled with joyous laughter and surprise! Most of the times, we have not seen our brothers/cousins/relatives in a long time because of work, so the night is filled with laughter about how one has: grown with weight, lost even more hair, etc.

First Day of Chinese New Year
This is when all relatives will gather in a place of importance (usually a grandparents' house) and we get to see all our new 'entries' to our generation! Babies and children will be in the spotlight as the elder relatives get to see them for the first time. Of course, before we eat, we have a shorter prayer/offering ritual. We also have a small process to decide whether or not our ancestors are 'satisfied and full'. It's usually done by tossing two/three coins until all the sides shows up with 'Heads'. The working males will usually update each other on their business/work while the working females will complain about their husbands. Elders will love to gossip and tease whoever they can find! Basically it's a time to get all of us up to date with what's going on in our lives!

Auspicious Red Packets (Ang Pows)
After the feast, it's time for Ang Pows! According to tradition, people who are already married will be giving the Ang Pows to those who are not married. This is also a funny time if one of your relatives is at the "it's time you got married" age, where they will get a lot of questions from aunts and uncles to hurry up. The happiest are the younger generation of children who will most definitely leave with a lot of Ang Pows (filled with cash)! Ang Pows are given on any joyous occassions (wedding, new business, etc.). Legend has it that to give a person an Ang Pow will bring luck to both parties. In Feng Shui, the red will activate the coins/money inside to bring the bearer more wealth.

Offerings to Ancestors
Much to the stress of environmentalists, we will also be burning 'Hell Money' which is considered to be the currency used in the after life. Please note, our definition of 'Hell' may differ from the Christian version of Hell. We will also burn paper replicas of real life items that we think will be of comfort such as: paper luxury cars, paper handphones, paper houses, etc. All of this will also be burnt with special "keys" which are given to dieties to allow them to tax some of these offerings and pass it on to our loved ones. As the burning slowly finishes, we pour rice wine over the ashes as a final offering.

Additional Rituals
Elders in general love gambling, and will usually get a younger relative to ask for gambling numbers (e.g. lottery numbers, horse racing bets, etc). After all, how could our ancestors not help such a young and cute member of their clan?

Families will also exchange "goodie bags" filled with food and delicacies. Interestingly, there will be occassions where a family will get back the exact items they gave away to another family simply because many of us are more thrify nowadays! "Well, this pack of pineapple tarts look so nice, but i already got three other boxes from other families... i think i'll put this pack in a goodie bag and give it to another family"

Firecrackers!!! For the entire two weeks it will be common to hear firecrackers going off at night. Children (and for some of us who still are kids at heart) will LOVE setting off those colorful and fascinating fireworks! Usually, an older relative will watch the children as they play for the sake of safety.

Mahjong, is a game similar to poker and gin rummy, played with marble tiles. The older generation will play it out through the night, and it's also a time when the younger generation (above 18 of course) will be invited to play. This becomes a friendly competition to see how strategically smart the younger generation is compared to the elder generation.

During Lunar New Year, it's common to see everyone in new clothing. Little children will be dressed in their new and sunday best! The older of us will just rummage through a closet and wear a new shirt and be satisfied. Ladies, who are usually more fashionable will get to show off their latest dresses and modern fashion that will combine with the theme of Lunar New Year.

Chap Goh Mei
Chap Goh Mei, is the last day of the Lunar New Year (the 15th day) of celebrations. On this day unmarried girls throw mandarin oranges into rivers with hopes of finding a good husband. Traditionally the date served as day for love and matchmaking. The more business savvy of the men will wait downstream with nets to catch all the fresh and juicy mandarin oranges (and sell it at market the next day). It's also a chance for the family to have one last reunion dinner.

Yes, there are 15 days of celebration! But this is because China is geographically large. It can sometimes take days to go back to your home town and so the 15 days will at least give them a buffer. Imagine if it was only one day, and you got delayed at some point!

There are much more rituals that i have not touched on (perhaps next year!), but hopefully this will give you some extra insight on how some of us will spend our time during this festive occassion. I can't wait to speak about things like: the legendary Lion Dance rituals, Chinese Opera, etc! I'm sure many of you reading will notice many similarities with other festive seasons like Christmas. The overall theme is generosity!

Keep in touch and enjoy the festive season!

About the Author:
Smiling Bamboo (www.smilingbamboo.com) strives to preserve the true traditions of Feng Shui amidst all the marketing hype of today. Its founders have spent most of their lives surrounded by Feng Shui and lived in both Eastern/Western cultures: providing them with an understanding of bridging the gap of both worlds with this beautiful science. Its customers include the United Nations, government officials and most importantly: the family.

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