Judy Penz Sheluk is a wonderful mystery author who also does a blog on authors and mystery novels. Today I’m delighted to say that I was included in her “Before They Were Authors” blog. I hope you enjoy it and leave a comment.
First, before I go into this New Year’s blog. I am so excited because yesterday I found out that Trapped, a Mei-hua Adventure, the third novel in the ancient China trilogy, has been nominated for an Agatha Award. The Agatha Award is given to mysteries that hold to the standards of Agatha Christie and her work. I am honored to be among such a wonderful group of other nominees for this award.
Now for this week’s New Year’s blog.
Before New Year arrives, the house is cleaned from top to bottom. By cleaning the house, the family is getting rid of any bad fortune they may have had last year. BUT they do not clean the house during the first couple of days of the New Year because then they could be sweeping away the New Year’s good luck. So: once the New Year comes it’s time to relax and enjoy, their work is done!
Some things people do to celebrate:
WHAT TO DO
- Adults give red paper envelopes to children. Inside the envelopes is a New Year gift of money. How much isn’t important, but it’s always in a red envelope.
- Everyone wears new clothes.
- People decorate their homes and buildings:
- At the entrance people hang long red paper strips with good luck sayings written on them. The good luck couplet is also visually balanced by being divided into two strips, one on each side of the door. and the saying is usually visually balanced, too.
- Red paper-cuts (usually square in shape) with the year’s animal—the rooster this year—or other good luck symbols (wealth) are pasted on the windows and doors. A popular word is fu for good fortune or happiness and it’s hung upside-down to represent the good things flowing into the house.
- Families go to temple fairs where they can watch puppet shows. These shows can be seen almost every day throughout the New Year period.
- Setting off firecrackers—much like our 4th of July on steroids. Both public and private fireworks are set off all over. Everyone participates.
- On the more serious side, is when the family comes together to honor their ancestors. They may clean the tombs, and they may also cluster together before pictures of their deceased relatives to show honor and respect. By participating in these activities as a family they are stressing that they are united by blood and are a cohesive unit.
- People greet each other by saying gongxi (恭喜), which is a way of saying “Best wishes in the New Year.”
WHAT NOT TO DO
Don’t give anyone:
- A scissors or a knife because they are sharp and it means you’re cutting off your relationship with them;
- Anything with the number 4 in it because 4 sounds like death and is, therefore, an extremely unlucky number.
- While fruit is usually a good thing to give as a gift, you should avoid pears. The word for pears is homophonous with “leaving” or “parting.”
- Cut flowers because these are generally given at a funeral, so—obviously—not auspicious!
- White or yellow flowers, which represent death. Just choose a plant in another color.
- Mirrors are thought to attract malicious ghosts—something no one would want to do. Plus, mirros are easily broken and anything broken is a bad omen.
This is a time of great celebration and joy, just avoid anything that implies death, breaking relationships, or bad luck.
Other quick resources: http://www.chinahighlights.com/festivals/things-not-give-chinese-new-year.htm; https://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/new-year/customs.htm; http://www.chinesenewyears.info/chinese-new-year-traditions.php; http://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-new-year-traditions.html; https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/chinese-new-year-games; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year
the door in Taipei = interest.com/pin/80361174572834867/; the red envelopes = I couldn’t find the source again; fireworks = pop.h-cdn.co.
It’s spring and I’m beginning my gardening in earnest. We have a fairly large flower/native plant area, which—hopefully—both the wild life and we can enjoy together. In looking at a picture our brother-in-law took of my husband and me in the garden, I realized that I was wearing a distinctive t-shirt our daughter gave me. Emblazoned on the front is an image of Monkey King, Sūn Wù-kōng, Sun Wuh-kong 孫悟空.
We’ve just celebrated 2 rather high profile Chinese holidays: New Years and the Lantern Festival. Most people know something about these holidays. They are fun, colorful, and celebrated by Chinese and non-Chinese around the world. This picture was taken at the St Louis Missouri Botanical Gardens in 2013.
But there are many other less known festival days that are tied to traditional Chinese culture. Some of these are tied to China’s solar calendar, some the lunar calendar, and some have become intermixed. One such holiday may be 驚蟄 Jing zhe, Insects Awaken. The holiday comes in the 3rd month (note People’s Daily Online). I believe this festival is also called the Shangsi Festival [上巳 節 shàngsì jié, shanghsih jier], which today officially lands on the 3rd day of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar*. Traditionally this began the farming season in most of China.
It is said that the thunder of spring rains awaken the insects who have been hibernating all winter. There are a range of activities to mark this day, such as a sacrificial ceremony held near water where people could clean themselves and rid themselves not only of dirt but also of last year’s bad luck. Driving out evil and bad luck is a critical part of this festival. Wormwood was hung in homes to drive out insects, rats and snakes.
Celebrants also called back the spirits of relatives and awaken their own spirits. And, as often happens, people would go outside and enjoy picnics and hikes. After all, winter was over, the spring rains had started and there was new life everywhere.
Another custom the People’s Daily mentioned was that in some areas the white tiger was honored. This was done to avoid disputes during the coming year. If someone angered or displeased the tiger, that person would have conflicts with others during the year. I especially like this story because it exemplified how important maintaining peaceful coexistence with your neighbors and family was.
As we said in the last post (January 3, 2014) the radical makes up an essential part of a character but there often is a second part, which usually gives further information. The word butterfly, hú dié, hur dier (蝴 蝶) is a great example. The first word in this combination is hú, hur (蝴).
Its radical is chόng, chongr 虫, which means bug. The second part is the character hú, hur, meaning foolish, reckless. Continue reading Why do Chinese characters look so complicated? Part 2 蝴 蝶