New Year is the main festival in the Chinese calendar, with many important and interesting customs. In 2015 it falls on February 19th. It is celebrated throughout East and South-east Asia, and also where many ethnic Chinese live, such as in Chinatown in London. It is brilliant and atmospheric occasion, and very central to the spiritual life of the Chinese.
The Chinese New Year combines the cycles of sun and moon. It falls on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice. Celebrating Chinese New Year connects you with other traditions and approaches, and can be fun. It also gives you the chance for a fresh start to New Year’s Resolutions, which are easier to keep when the nights are lighter and Spring so much closer.
For the Chinese it’s traditional to have fortunes told at New Year. You can use Tarot, astrology, a crystal ball or anything that appeals. Our psychics at The Circle are always available to give you advice and a glimpse into the coming year.
Tsao Chun, the Kitchen God is the Chinese hearth deity. He is usually represented in a paper image stuck over the stove, or possibly a little clay figure. A week before New Year the Kitchen God goes to paradise, to report to the other gods how well behaved the family have been. This is represented by the Kitchen God effigy being taken down and burnt, along with a little honey, to sweeten his story and a little wine, to make him tipsy and happy. Some households have a shrine to the Kitchen God, which is carried outside. There a table is laid with goodies, incense is burnt and children light fireworks. You can adapt this custom by having an evening to revue how the past year has been. Family members can make a pledge for the coming year to do something that is good for the home, writing the promises on scraps of paper. Then you can have a lovely meal, burn all the scraps of paper in a fire-proof container (not an ashtray) and the kids can light sparklers from the flames. After this, why not find or make your own Kitchen God picture, to hang over the cooker until next year?
Business deals are settled during the week before New Year, and debts are paid off, to begin with a clean slate. If you have debts that you can’t pay, try to streamline your accounts, and ask for advice from debt counsellors if you need this. Facing your money situation will put you in control and make you feel stronger. If you are fortunate enough not to have debts, look at your investments and the way you spend your income. Everyone can benefit from some extra budgeting.
In the final week of the Chinese year, Flower Fairs begin. Copy this by welcoming hyacinths and daffodils into your home. Bright colours and sweet scents make you optimistic, determined to make the best of the months to come.
Cleansing the home begins ten days before New Year, sweeping out the old and making way for the new. All food has to be prepared in advance, because it’s unlucky to use scissors or knives on New Year’s Day. No cleaning should be done on New Year’s Day or the day after, in case the good luck is swept away. The start of February isn’t too early for a little spring cleaning, so why not give your home a refreshing once-over?
Families get together and children are given red packets containing money. Before midnight the doors are locked and sealed, and children allowed to stay up late to see the New Year in. Next day fire-crackers are let off and green bunches burnt to signify the old year has passed. The festivities continue for a fortnight, until the Full Moon when the Lantern Festival takes place, with plays, sports and wonderful lanterns. These are easy to buy, so set your own lantern to fly high, with your hopes for the coming year.
PUBLISHED: 16 February 2015