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Gongxi Facai!! Happy Chinese New Year!! January 31, 2014

Over the next few weeks you will most likely see and hear a lot of activity involving spectacular fireworks or silk lions dancing through the streets with loud drums following behind.  Or you may be invited to a sumptuous family Chinese banquet…these are all the hallmarks of the Chinese New Year.

These days Chinese people have a huge influence on all of our lives, particularly mine, so I thought you might be interested in hearing a little bit about this exciting Chinese celebration.

Firstly some background of my story with China and its people.  Over the past eight years our family has been unbelievably blessed to have welcomed three magnificent young children into our lives.  They were adopted as babies from China….I call them our “GFG’s”…our gifts from God. I am not a particularly religious person but little Grace, Abbey and Joshua have enriched our lives forever….they have all had extremely hard entries into this world and come from very remote parts of China…so we have been to locations in China that most westerners are never likely to see.  During these visits we have experienced some unique family traditions that have been celebrated for thousands of years and  we’ve built some strong relationships with “grass roots” Chinese families who have inspired us with their incredible attitudes to life, intriguing history (especially the Cultural Revolution), engaging festivals, traditional stories, fun activities and amazing food…but having said that, I wasn’t that keen on the boiled snails and black chicken soup!

Almost all Chinese festivals follow a lunar calendar, which means the calendar follows the moon’s cycle around the sun (rather than the earth’s movement around the sun, per the Western, or Gregorian, calendar).  The cycle of the moon is just less than thirty days, so twelve moons define the twelve months of the year.  Chinese New Year falls on the second moon after the winter equinox, which this year starts on 31 January.  In China they call it the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival.

Chinese families like to welcome the new year with a clean slate and undertake activities like…really cleaning the house and removing all traces of the old year (it removes the bad luck and misfortune), painting gates , washing windows, making sure all the bills are paid, making or buying new outfits for the children.  Some families put up new wood block prints showing good luck symbols like butterflies (for longevity), fish (for abundance), dragons (for power), bats (for good luck…who would have thought?), or melons ( for children). 

On New Year’s Eve the whole family gathers for a huge banquet.  As the meal progresses, red envelopes containing money are passed out to children and firecrackers are set off. According to custom, parents give red envelopes to their children or grandchildren.  Only married adults can give red envelopes to their unmarried siblings or cousins.  Sleep is discouraged on New Years Eve, and the entire family stays up to welcome in the New Year….they believe that the longer children stay up, the longer their parents will live (I think the opposite is true in Australia!).  Then, at dawn, the front door is opened and the master of the house says a blessing for the coming year.  

On New Years Day everyone goes to watch the Dragon parade. The Dragon is the most important and powerful animal in the Chinese zodiac. Why is the dragon so important?…and why do Chinese shops have the dragon go running through their shop and then eat the lettuce on the end of the long stick?....and who is the ferocious demon called Nian?... and who is the Kitchen God?……it’s a long fascinating story, which I may go into in a future Blog. 

Today in China the people have three days off for the Spring Carnival and the Government puts two weekends together, allowing people to have seven days leave from work and children are off school for a month.  A lot of people travel back to their home towns during this period.  I have been at the Beijing Train Station late on the Friday afternoon immediately prior to the Festival period and I have never seen so many people in one train station in my life…..there were literally thousands! At that time I was catching an overnight train to Changsha, the third largest city in China, and the train carriages seemed to stretch forever….it would have taken 20 minutes to walk from one end of the train to the other. 

The Chinese have ten traditional festivals during the lunar year, and I have been extremely lucky to have been in remote China during a couple of them…the Lantern and Moon festivals.  To see the faces of young couples who stand in the middle of an unlit barren oval late at night and light up their self-made lantern together and watch their reaction when it successfully ascends into the dark sky is amazing….to them it means they are going to have a happy marriage and a long life together….but when the lantern doesn’t get off the ground…wow, suffice to say the girl is not happy! It’s an experience that will always remain with me.

Hope that was of some interest…until next time “Gongxi facai”…which means “wishing you prosperity”. 


Terry Jones
Marketing Manager  

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