As an American, I’m often deeply disappointed that our culture doesn’t seem to have the richness of history, customs, and traditions that so many other cultures around the world embrace and celebrate. I found myself seeking out festivals, like the Day of the Dead, holidays, and events celebrated by my fellow global citizens in order to get a taste of some of the magic and beauty in these ancient traditions.
Today, we get to embrace the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Monkey. While I’ll admit, I don’t know a lot about Chinese culture, however, I’m intrigued. I love the colors, the clothing (Qipao), and the traditions that make up this holiday celebrated by more than 200 million people.
I wanted to participate in the Chinese New Year on some level, so this weekend, I brought my little family to the Chinese New Year festival in Denver. (Here’s the flyer from this year)
We had a chance to take a peek at the performances before the show—and they were spectacular! I just wished we knew about it earlier and were able to purchase tickets, my son Rawley was completely intrigued by the music, dance, and costumes that were displayed on the performers.
At the festival, we enjoyed some delicious Chinese food including noodles, fried rice, steamed buns, egg rolls, and mung bean filled sesame seed balls! (Here’s a recipe I just found online for those if you want to try them out, it was Rawley’s favorite!)
Here are some fun facts for you to consider during this holiday and in creating your own Chinese New Year traditions!
The Color Red
The color red signifies good luck and can be found in many of the clothing and decorations for the Chinese New Year. People wrap money in red paper/packets in the hopes that more good fortune will come to the receiver. Children sometimes wake up with red packets with money tucked into their pillow from the night before. Employers also give bonuses to employees during this time as well. If you want to know how much money to give, check out this infographic.
The Chinese New Year is the most celebrated and most important holiday in the Chinese calendar. The celebrations for this “spring festival” last up to 15 days. During this time children are typically out of school. The two week period ends with the Lantern Festival.
The Chinese New Year comes with a lot of customs and traditions that signify new beginnings, such as cleaning out your home, opening all your windows and doors at midnight of the New Year to rid your home of anything from the past, and getting a fresh haircut or new clothing. Conversations should revolve around the future and new beginnings. (Do you think American culture has also adopted some of these beliefs around fresh starts–especially our desire for “spring cleaning?”)
A Tray of Togetherness
A “tray of togetherness” is made of Chinese special treats to share with guests and family. The tray typically contains eight departments or eight types of food (another symbol of good luck) and should stay constantly full (to symbolize abundance). You can fill the tray with things like candied lotus root, red watermelon seeds, candied coconut, dried peanuts, and more. Each of the foods represent another aspect of good fortune. To learn how to make your own tray of togetherness, check out this post here.
Whether you get a chance to celebrate the Chinese New Year this year, be sure you make it a point to introduce some of the cultures and traditions into your life. The more we learn about and embrace some of the traditions and customs of other cultures, the more connected we all become.
Happy Chinese New Year!
Have you ever been to a Chinese New Year festival? I’d love to hear about it. Share in the comments below.