Welcome Year of the Pig
ISLIP TOWN—The colorful celebration of Chinese New Year has expanded to a number of countries that have shared in the joy of the foods and traditions of the holiday, which is based on the lunar calendar.
Chinese New Year this year began with the new moon on Tuesday, Feb. 5 and will run through Feb. 19. The holiday, which is known as the Spring Festival in China, celebrates birth and renewal with a year of possibilities ahead while paying homage to deities and ancestors. An animal that foretells what one can expect in the year ahead represents every year. This year is the pig, whose chubby cheeks and big ears are signs of good fortune. We can only hope. The last pig years were 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995 and 2007.
One of the most common ways to celebrate the holiday is with food. And each food item is symbolic as well. As with Chinese New Year activities and decorations, meals also give blessings for the next year, and so that’s why they’re chosen and prepared carefully. Here are some of the meanings of various food items: eggs, a big and healthy family; lobster, endless money rolling in; shrimp, fortune and wealth; roasted pig, peace; duck, loyalty; peaches, longevity; tofu, happiness and fortune for the entire family; and fish, surplus and wealth.
In addition to food, various other customs signal the holiday. Red envelopes that are filled with money are handed out, especially to children, as a sign of hope for upcoming wealth. Small gifts of candy and other sweets also represent a wish for good fortune.
Firecrackers and fireworks are a big part of the holiday. The colorful noise is believed to drive away evil spirits. The traditional Dragon Dance, also done at this time, appears to have the same effect on negative energy.
On the last day of the Chinese New Year, which is Feb. 19, the lantern festival is held. The lighting of paper lanterns that are set out into the night is performed with friends and family to celebrate happy reunions.
One doesn’t have to be Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year. Joining in the celebrations or starting you own can be just as much fun. So, Happy New Year — or as it is also said at this time of year, Gung Hay Fat Choi!
~ Liz Finnegan
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