My First Experience Celebrating The Chinese New Year in China
This is our door decoration for the Chinese New Year. It is a traditional display for bringing good fortune for the coming year.
Chūnlián (春聯) are simply long, narrow red strips of paper or diamond-shaped paper printed with black or gold Chinese characters which are hung in the doorways of homes in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Chunlian decorations are marked with messages of good fortune such as happiness, prosperity and long life, known as Spring Couplets. These mostly have four gold Chinese characters, which are called Hui Chun.
The color red is chosen for two reasons. The first is because red is a lucky color and the second because it is supposed to frighten off the monster Nian who is thought to come on New Years Eve. The color gold represents wealth.
Another tradition that Tai follows and is an emotional one for her, especially this year. Last year during the Chinese New Year was the last time she was with her father. He passed away in the summer. She has cried right much in the last few days. It breaks my heart. Her life has been outside the Christian faith and I try to help her understand more about Jesus. Sometimes I feel I don’t have the words I want or need to share God with her. Our language and customs should not be a hindrance but for me it is right now. Tai has always been Buddhist and while I don’t have a complete understanding (far from it) of the beliefs of Buddhism, I try to respect where she is right now in her faith. She has told me she wants to be a Christian. But, for her to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior is not a snap of the fingers or the twitching of the nose. It has to move in her heart and spirit. Plus she has 50 years of a faith that has been one of those family traditions for a very long time. Whereas, Christianity in China is an outside faith. While 10s of millions have accepted Christ in this Asian Country it is still a minority faith. I try to be a living example in my prayers and daily life. I always say grace before meals, even if sometimes she seems disinterested. Sometimes she inquires if I say a longer grace. I send her scripture in text messages so she can translate into Chinese. I will play Christian music on occasion. Sometimes I will quote a particular verse off and on during the day. I am always praying for her and for Jesus to enter her heart. I ask you to pray with me as God reaches out to Tai. I pray for her salvation.
Family is viewed as a closely united group of living and dead relatives.
Ancestor worship is a religious practice based on the belief that deceased family members have a continued existence, that the spirits of deceased ancestors will look after the family, take an interest in the affairs of the world, and possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living.
Unity of the group is reinforced through ancestor reverence, offering of various kinds help to keep the ancestors happy in the spiritual world, who, in return, will bless the family.
Ancestor worshipping is not asking for favors, but to fulfil one’s filial duties. The act is a way to respect, honor and look after ancestors in their afterlives guaranteeing the ancestors’ well-being and positive disposition towards the living, as well as possibly seeking the ancestors’ wisdom, guidance or assistance for their living descendants.
One has to pay respect and homage to the ancestors, honor the deeds and memories of the deceased, since the ancestors are the ones having brought the descendants into the world, nourished them and having prepared the conditions under which the descendants grew up, hence ancestor veneration is a pay back of spiritual debts. Being an important aspect of the Chinese culture, the social or non-religious function of ancestor worship is to cultivate kinship values like filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family lineage.
PREPARATION OF MEALS
Food must be prepared ahead of time, as one of the popular Chinese New Year superstitions dictates that all knives must be put away. Using a knife during the first days of the New Year “cuts off” all the good luck for the coming year. Eating certain foods have specials meanings and fortunes. Eating fish means togetherness throughout the year. Chicken is for wealth, shrimp is for abundance, and steamed bun/dumplings are for good luck. Eating apples is for peace.
We did have a wonderful, yet simple New Year Eve and Day dinner. Fish is a must as is dumplings. Here are some pics of what Tai served. New Years Eve meal consisted of pork, rice, tasty salad and dumplings.
New Years Day included fish, pork, salad and dumplings. What surprised me was there wasn’t any rice serve.
On the day after New Years Day we had rooster (taste like chicken 😉 ) It was just the two of us but I could tell this meant so much to Tai as she was preparing everything a couple of days in advance. I would tell her to rest over and over. I even thought maybe her mother, brother and sisters might be coming. It seemed she was preparing so much. That was before I knew the preparation included getting several days of meals prepared. That no use of a knife superstition is something Tai believes. She was not going to “cut off” any good luck for this year. As I wanted her to rest she finally told me, she is cooking for me because she loves me and I make her very happy. And she wants to make me happy. Now say that in broken English with a Chinese accent. While being hugged with a soft kiss on the cheek. It was a tender moment.
Many little things in life we sometimes gloss over as being sweet. But to see the sincerity, the care, and love expressed by Tai will stay with me forever. The essence of Taiyanghua is pure. It comes from unspoiled influence of family and the closeness and value of a husband and wife. China is about family. A loving bond that has lost its importance in many American families these days I think. I always enjoy the posts by my friends on Facebook that remind me of family togetherness. We cannot turn back the clock to the 50s, 60s, or the 70s. When traditions were also family values. While this is different in China, I am taken back in time. Tai has been telling me several stories growing up and celebrating Chinese New Years. How it was a big family event. The preparation of food, she, her mom and sisters shopping and cooking together. Her father and brother killing the pig (swine as she calls it) and sometimes she would even get in on the slaughter. Also the decorations, other family coming to visit, fireworks etc.. And seeing those memories reflected in her eyes transported me to my own Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and celebrations. It is nice to have silent smiles from the memories of long ago.
Take care friends and God bless.