Happy Niu Year!

Happy Niu Year!

Happy Niu Year!

With Year of Ox one week away (Jan 26, 2009), China is all abuzz about the holiday and preparation is in full swing. While students having their 4 week long winter break (mid Jan to mid Feb), the whole country will get at least one week off (official holiday for this year is Jan 25th to 31st).

Chinese New Year, most celebrated holiday in China, is also the largest and most widely celebrated holiday on earth, with 1.3 billions people celebrating in China and Chinese communities celebrating all over the world. I can’t help but feel the excitement too from talking to my family in China about their holiday plans and receiving news of and invitations to the local celebration here in the States.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the years in the 60’s and early 70’s when I was a little girl on Hainan Island, China and most eagerly looked forward to Chinese New Year. I remember my parents taking me and my sister on their bikes to where 奶奶 (Nainai or Grandma from father) lived with my uncle (Baba’s brother), auntie and cousins for dinner on New Year’s Eve. I remember Nainai’s ritual before dinner; she set up the boiled chicken, which we ate later at dinner, and some fruits at a small shrine in her room, paid respect in genuflection to ancestors and worshiped and prayed to the gods. I remember having the dinner in the courtyard and sitting around a fire after dinner listening to grown up’s conversation half asleep. New Year’s Eve dinner in those days was a few dishes more than the regular every day meal and by no means lavish but very much enjoyed. In those days, when having just enough for the daily necessity was the norm, new clothe, nice treats and lucky money at Chinese New Year were cherished by us kids.

Things have changed for the better, and having been on the giving end for many years now, new clothe, nice treats and lucky money no longer constitute the sole excitement of Chinese New Year. Adding to the appeal of the holiday is the rich history behind the tradition.

While some legends attributed the invention of Chinese Calendar to Emperor Huang Di (黄帝, 3000 BC to 2100BC), some others attributed it to Xia Dynasty (2070BC to 1600BC). In any case, the establishment of Chinese Calendar (or Xia Calendar as it was traditionally referred to), ending the dateless era and establishing a time keeping system that coincided with the cycle of seasons which in turn regulated agricultural activities that majority of the Chinese population revolved around in those days, was of mighty importance and commanded a celebration. In addition, the first day of Chinese New Year was named Yuan Dan (元旦) and Chinese New Year’s celebration Guo Nian (过年). Thousands of years had passed and dynasties had come and gone but Chinese New Year tradition survived. In 1911 government of the new Republic of China adopted the western Georgian Calendar as the official calendar but Chinese Calendar and New Year continued to be observed. In 1949, when People’s Republic of China was established, the new government renamed the first day of Georgian Calendar to Yuan Dan (元旦) and first day of Chinese Calendar to Spring Festival (春节) and tagged Chinese New Year a national holiday.

Chinese New Year, a tradition so steeped in history and a holiday celebrated on a land so diversified, will be ushered in by one quarter of the world’s population in rich customs and varied fashions, but the quintessence of the tradition will be shared: Love and Hope. And come New Year’s Eve, most of the 1.3 billion people will also be sharing CCTV’s annual New Year Celebration, a most watched TV show at any single time.

Ox is 牛 in Chinese character and Niu in Chinese phonics. Here I wish you a Happy Niu Year!

2 Responses

  1. Hi Yvonne,

    Thanks for the New Year greeting. I tried the Tilapia Pamesan, it’s good. we all like it, so easy and so yummy. Thank you. I use the recipe for the chicken breast, and it turned out delicious as well.

    Hung Hay Fat Choy!


    • That is great Helen. I am so glad you tried the recipe and and extended it, well done. And thanks for letting me know.

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