February 11, 2010

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]

With firecracker sounds and lion and dragon dance, the lively and joyful New Year is here on February 14, 2010! For centuries, we have continued to celebrate and practice the traditional customs of the Lunar Chinese New Year that was carried over by our ancestors. Ever wonder what those traditional customs are and the meanings behind?

The most famous legend of the Lunar New Year source can be traced back to thousands of years ago. A mystery beast named “Nian” or “Year” in Chinese. Nian" is a cruel ferocious beast; "Nian" came out on the Eve and devoured all crops, villagers, and children. Villagers found out that Nian is very afraid of red, noise, and fire. Therefore, villagers started to hang the red paper on the doors, lighted up the fire torches, and made noise from the firecrackers on the Eve to scare the beasts away. The next day, the New Year day, people celebrated their victory and re-birth by greeting each other with “Congratulation” or “Gong Xi”.

The red paper on the doors became the “Spring Couplets” (春聯 ) which is written in a red paper with black Chinese Characters. The fire torches became the Red Lanterns. “Gong Xi” became the most popular greeting words on the New Year day- “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (恭喜發財)

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]


We celebrate the New Year from the Eve, even though the preparation could start about one week prior.

It starts in the early morning right passed 12:00AM on the Eve; “Lord of Heaven Worship” (拜天公) is conducted outside the house with fruits and flowers to pray for a peaceful and smooth coming year. ("Lord of Heaven Worship" can be conducted on the 9th day of the New Year in Meinung culture, since 9th is the birthday of the Lord.)

Photo by Photoless[Photoless Blog]

The entire house needs to be cleaned prior to the Eve. It means to sweep out all the bad luck for the whole year. No sweeping is allowed from the 1st to the 5th of the New Year which will bring bad luck.

“Ancestors worship” (辭歲) starts in the mid afternoon. Family members get together to thank their ancestors from their blessing for this year.

This is how my family does every year- We wrote 3 ancestors’ names on a red envelope. Set up a table or an Altar with 3 rice bowls, 3 wine cups, 3 pair of chopsticks, and 3 chairs for the ancestors. They are having their meals before we have. There are some “must to have” dishes on the table, such as rice cake (年糕), oranges, chicken, and fish…etc. We are told we need to take bath before bowing to the ancestors with the incense to show respect. We all take turn to bow. After all the incenses burn out completely, we then start burning worship money for ancestors to spend. After the firecrackers, the worship is complete!

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]

The Eve Dinner is also known as “ Wei Lu " (圍 爐) (surround by a stove) with the whole family. Coins will be places around the hot pot meaning “surround”.

A rice bowl and a pair of chopsticks are placed on the table for the one who can’t make to the dinner. Take time to eat all the dishes. However, fish dish can’t be touched, it is for show only. “Fish” means “Extra” in Chinese. We don’t eat the fish on the eve so that we will have savings all year round. (年年有餘)

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]

The most exciting moment for the children is to receive “Red Envelope” (紅包) from the elders after the dinner. The amount of the money in the envelope has to be an even number for good luck. I remember my parents told me to sleep with my red envelopes by putting them underneath my pillow on that night to bring wealth when I was a kid.

After dinner, family get together to chat, play games or watching TV to “Shou Sui” (守 歲) - stay overnight. Longer you stay, longer life your parents will have, so it also names “Longevity Night” My brother and I always competed in who would stay up the longest!

Right passed 12:00AM, we have firecrackers to welcome the New Year!

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]

New Year Day

It is the tradition for people to wear brand new clothes from head to toes on the New Year Day. It symbolizes having more than enough things to use and wear in the New Year. Friends, neighbors, or family members visit each other on that day and say “Gong Xi Fa Cai”. There are also phone calls greeting the distance friends. It is a good way to start connecting with friends on the 1st day of the year!

Dragon and lion dances or other folk activities can be seen on that day. In the rural area of Taiwan in the early years, dragon and lion dances came to the door to perform, and then you put a red envelope into lion’s mouth for good luck.

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]

There are also many taboos on the New Year day however, such as no sweeping and no taking out the trash which mean to sweep out your wealth. Do not say bad thing, or argue with anyone on that day. If a glass or dish is accidently broken, you need to say “year year safe” (歲歲平安) in Chinese (broken pieces safe). “Year” has the same pronunciation as “Broken pieces” in Chinese.

Photo by Tony[tony’s style]

After the New Year day, each day has different meanings, such as; the 2nd day is the married daughter returning to her parents’ home (回 娘 家). The 4th day is for all the deities to return to the earth. The 5th day is the business stores opening day. The bustling New Year atmosphere will not cool down until the 15th which is the Lantern Festival!

Lunar Chinese New Year’s traditions have been kept for thousands of years. Although some of the customs may sound like superstitious taboos, the meanings behind actually represent “Respect”, “Harmony”, “Family Value”, “ Enhance Personal Relationship”, and “ Health and Wealth”. Indeed it is the most joyful and exciting time of the year!

Gong Xi Fa Cai and Happy Year of Tiger to all!

Thanks to "Tony" and "Photoless" for some of the beautiful photos! Read More


Anonymous said...







micki and kristen said...

Hi, Londoncaller

Happy New Year to you too!

I have seen 南獅 performing in Taiwan too. Yes, the 1st and 13th picture are the lion dance in Taiwan.

Thanks for reminding me- I was going to add the 9th day of the 拜天公 for Meinung culture, then I totally forgot about it. Just added it.


Gong Si Fa Tsai!

lechua said...

great post to bring in the new year. i like the 2nd picture of the jossticks. our reunion dinner actually gets less and less traditional by the year - it becomes a simple get-together of eating out now. it's good that you guys still continue on the tradition. and learnt something new about 'fish'.

a Happy Chinese New Year to you, micki & kristen! May you have a joyous celebration!

Alexander said...

Very interesting lion head. And even more interesting colour to use!

Have a good weekend.

Alex's World! - http://www.kakinan.com/alex

Alexander said...

I only noticed more photos after posting my first commons, they are beautiful and fun too!

Alex's World! - http://www.kakinan.com/alex

Anonymous said...

Outstanding pictures!

I really wish I could celebrate 春节 in China (or Taiwan, let's not start arguing ;-))

I celebrate at home since my partner is Chinese.

fufu said...

xin nian kuai le... gong xi fa cai and happy valentine's day :) chinese new year is so happening there in taiwan!!! wish i could go there once for the cny

micki and kristen said...

To Lechua- Happy New Year to you too! The "Fish" tradition has been kept in my family for years. Wish you and your family has a great reunion dinner!

To Alexander- This lion is very unique. There are so many kinds of lions! Happy New Year and Gong Si Fa Tsai to you!

To Zhu- Haha! I really like your humor :):)
No wonder you have studied Chinese for 14 years! Wish you and your partner a happy Chinese new year! Gong Si Fa Tsai~~

To Fufu- Xin Nian kuai Le to you too! Welcome to join us to celebrate Lunar New Year here when you visit next time! :):)

shloke said...

A beautiful writeup about the tradition of Chinese Lunar Year. Nowadays, I celebrate Chinese New Year in a moderate way. No elaborate decorating or straight DOs and DON'Ts.

My mom even wash clothes and sweep the floor on the first day of Chinese New Year. No longer a superstitious lady. LOL! But, we still have our yearly reunion diner.

Micki, we usually say Gong Xi Fa Cai instead of Gong Si Fa Tsai

Happy Chinese New Year & Valentine's Day!

dennis said...


micki and kristen said...

To Mylo- Thanks! Happy Lunar New Year to you too!

I think we can use both “Gong Xi Fa Cai” and “Gong Si Fa Tsai”. The “Si” and “Tsai” were spelt in Taiwan before the Pinyin. Actually “Kung” was how it spelt for “Gong” before the Pinyin. They are 2 systems in pronouncing Chinese characters with English letters; however, I am not good at either one. We use pronouncing symbols and they are not in English letters in Taiwan. They are “ㄅㄆㄇㄈ” (Bo, Po, Mo, Fo). Due to this, when it comes to spell Chinese characters in English letters, I use both systems- the original system used in Taiwan and Pinyin. A bit complicated, isn’t it? :) :)

To Dennis- 新年快樂! 祝你萬事如意~~

Anonymous said...

長年菜? Hmm... I don't remember having this dish!?
Anyway, my Hakka "clan" does not eat 擂茶.

Re: Little Squirrel’s Chinese New Year / 小松鼠的农历新年 / Tahun Baru Cina Tupai Kecil / リスちゃんの旧正月

The squirrels here are actually really tame. They will pose for you even if you don't offer them any food! Ha ha...

micki and kristen said...

To londoncaller- Here is a good link about Hakka's 長年菜. Hope this will help! :)

Anonymous said...

I was also about to ask, because we (er... "we" being me, the 西方人!) say Gong Xi Fa Cai. Is "pinyin" different in Taiwan? I.e. does Taiwan has a different system?

The Nomadic Pinoy said...

Happy New Year! I wish the year of the tiger will bring you more photographic adventures.

Cecil Lee said...

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR OF TIGER! Thanks for sharing such different travel experience in Taiwan. We will conduct Lord of Heaven wishop on the 9th Day of CNY starting from 8th evening. :)

Unknown said...

I linked to your post on my blog. Good job! I love your use of pictures.

micki and kristen said...

To Zhu and Mylo- I spent time finding some sources and have the answer~~
Wade-Giles and Tongyong Pinyin are the systems that Taiwan has been using.
Please see this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wade-Giles

“Wade-Giles” was developed before Pinyin. It has been used in Taiwan for decades. Tongyong Pinyin has also been used in Taiwan from 2002-2008. There is a comparison chart of “Pinyin”, “Wade-Gile”, “Tonyong” and “Zhuyin” on the bottom of this link page. However, Zhuyin (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) is what we learn at school in Taiwan.

I have been using both Wade-Giles /Tongyong pinyin and a few Pinyin in the blog. After my research, I found out that Pinyin has become the standard system in Taiwan since 2009. (Oops! I am so behind.) To avoid the confusing, I just changed to “Gong Xi Fa Cai”. We will be using just Pinyin for the blog from now on which will be much easier :) :) Thanks!

To Nomadic Pinoy- Like the wish, definitely would like to have more photographic adventures this year! Thanks! Happy Year of tiger!

To Cecil- Thanks for visiting us! Happy Lunar New Year to you too, and have a wonderful Lord of Heaven Worship. It would be very interesting to see the worship in Malaysia.

To Steve- Thanks for linking this post. Good to know that you find this post interesting and useful!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the detailed answer! I had always wondered what these signs (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) meant and I have seen them on NJStar, one of the word processing software I used a while back.

I had no idea that so many romanization systems of Chinese characters had been developed. My Chinese teachers were all from China and apparently, over there, pinyin was taught in schools in the 70s. A few of my teachers had never learned it though because they were older.

I don't rely on pinyin much anyway, mostly just for looking up a word in a dictionary or typing. I'm glad I learned to read and write the characters... I don't understand Westerners who don't want to and just "read" pinyin. It's very limiting.

micki and kristen said...

To Zhu-
I am so impressed with your Chinese! Great for you!
Indeed Pinyin is easier for the English speaking countries (or any countries that use Roman letters) to learn Chinese. Zhuyin (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ) is more complicated, but it is a classic, and I enjoy it. I am so glad that I learned ㄅㄆㄇㄈ at grammar school in Taiwan. It would be challenging to learn ㄅㄆㄇㄈ especially when English were learned first.
keep up your good work :)

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