Kung Hei Fat Choy! This week many people around the world will be celebrating the Chinese New Year, and Hawaiʻi is definitely included in the party. Our own Chinatown celebrates for almost the entire month with block parties, music, food, crafts, lion dances, parades and a Narcissus Queen Pageant. The entire community comes together for these festive events to bring in the New Year, hoping for good luck and prosperity.
Chinese believed that hanging red lanterns outside of their homes would scare away a certain mythical beast.
According to legend, the first Chinese New Year began centuries ago with a fight against the mythical beast, Nian. Nian would arrive in villages on the first day of the New Year to ravage crops, livestock and eat children. The villagers began to put food outside of their doors, hoping that if Nian ate it, he wouldn’t attack anyone and leave their village in peace. One day, a villager saw Nian run away from a small child wearing red clothing and realized that Nian was afraid of that particular color. From then on, the villagers would hang red lanterns and scrolls on their windows and doors around the New Year, as well as light loud firecrackers to frighten away Nian. Their efforts worked, and the mythical creature never bothered them again.
VIDEO: Chinatown doesn't mess around when ringing in the Year of the Dragon.
The date of the Chinese New year is determined by the Chinese lunisolar calendar and usually ranges between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. This year, it fell on Jan. 23, 2012. The Chinese zodiac relates each year to a particular animal and its attributes, revolving in a 12-year cycle. This year is the year of the Dragon.
The Dragon is the mightiest of signs in the Chinese zodiac and is a symbol of good fortune and ambition. It is the only mystical creature in the zodiac, as the rest are all earthly animals, and is regarded with much respect in Chinese culture. People born in the year of the Dragon are said to have certain attributes such as being quick tempered, innovative, enterprising, self-assured, scrutinizing and passionate, to name a few. Many people in Hawaiʻi follow Chinese astrology and relate to their zodiac signs.
One festive way to celebrate the New Year is to attend a lion or dragon dance. Lion dances are performed to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck and fortune to a NewYear, as well as to crowds of bystanders and even businesses. Two people usually operate a lion costume and incorporate basic martial arts moves in the performance. Elaborate dragon dances are also performed, in which many people hold a huge dragon on poles and mimic this mythical river spirit's undulated movements. Dragon dances represent and bring good luck to people and the New Year.
A busy night in Honolulu's Chinatown that includes fresh jin dui, a black bean pastry.
Although the Chinese New Year celebrations are coming to a close, an entire year awaits full of promise and good fortune. I hope that your year is full of happiness, luck, adventure and laughter. Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Video and Photo Credit: Alyssa S. Navares
Entry Filed under: Customs, Practices and Pastimes
January 25th, 2012