Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lunar New Year - The Icons

Lunar New Year for Chinese people is celebrated every year in welcoming the new day of a year. There are some icons of this celebration.

Red Packets

Giving Hongbao (Red packets or Red envelopes) during Chinese New Year is another tradition. A Red packet is simply a red envelope with money in it which symbolizes luck and wealth. Red packets are typically handed out to younger generations by their parents, grandparents, relatives, close neighbors and friends. Money given like this may not be refused and the pretty envelope makes the present seem less vulgar. The immediate family give presents to children on New Year's Eve. This is called Ya Sui Qian, meaning "suppressing age money," which is supposed to stop children from getting older. This comes from the belief that everyone becomes one year older on New Year's Day. Red is the lucky color and will bring good luck to the person receiving the present.

Kitchen God's Day

On the 24th day of the last lunar month the Kitchen god returns to heaven to give a report to the Jade Emperor (in Chinese mythology the Jade Emperor is the ruler of heaven) about the family's activities over the past year. This day is marked by acts of appeasement to the Kitchen god so that he will give the Jade Emperor a favourable report.

Traditionally images of the Kitchen god are burned as a symbolic act of departure. Often some gold or silver money will also be burned for travelling expenses. In some households the lips of the Kitchen god are brushed with honey or a sugar solution just before the image is burned - this will increase the likelihood that only sweet things will be said by the Kitchen god. From the 24th the Kitchen god will be absent from his shrine in the kitchen, and during this time it will be cleaned in preparation for his return on New Year's Eve.

Door Gods

During the build up to Chinese New Year Door Gods are placed on the external doors of houses. This is an age of tradition dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD). The Emperor Taizong is said to have fallen ill, and had a dream in which ghosts came to the palace in search for him. He recounted this tale to his officials the next day, and the story quickly spread through the Imperial Court - such matters were not taken lightly. The emperors top two generals, Qin Qiong and Yuchi Gong, both of whom had fought to establish the Tang dynasty stood guard outside the emperor's bedroom door.

The emperor slept soundly in the knowledge that he was protected by these two generals, and had no further dreams of the ghosts. However, after a few nights the emperor became concerned for the generals. He ordered that two paintings be made, one of each general. Once completed, the emperor had these hung on the door to his room, and relieved the generals.

This tale soon became widely known, and in their eagerness to share the protection of these "Door Gods" the common people made their own paintings and placed them on their doors. the tradition has continued ever since.

Source : http://www.chinavoc.com/festivals/spring/springf02.htm#packet

See Also : Mooncake, Mid autumn festival

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