Happy Year of the Pig!
On February 5th, people all over the world celebrated the start of the Lunar New Year. But in Chinese culture, New Year is celebrated for fifteen days.
In Stardust’s spirit of learning, February’s Constellation is about the complexity of Chinese new year traditions. Everyone celebrates New Year differently, but some of the customs, food, and decoration teach us how the simplest parts of our daily routine can be filled with meaning.
Chinese New Year is the perfect time to learn about traditional Chinese Music.
The video above is a classic example of "Silk and Bamboo" music, which refers to instruments that are traditionally made of bamboo, like the dizi (Chinese flute).
Tidying for the new year 🧹
Many Chinese New Year customs are to ensure good luck for the coming year. A very important step in preparation is to clean your whole house before the new year. You cannot clean your house on the first day of Chinese new year because then you might sweep the good luck away.
Another custom is to cut your hair before the new year, because if you get a haircut during Chinese new year, you might snip off the good luck.
While these customs might seem superstitious and archaic, they are also logical - you wouldn’t want to start your new year with a dirty, cluttered house. And during such a social holiday, when you see many relatives and friends, you want to look nice, so that no one criticizes your messy hair.
A community effort for Lunar New Year
The photo above comes from an article about a community assemblyman, Rajiv Rishyakaran, who is helping to clean up his community in Bukit Gasing, Malaysia, for the Lunar New Year.
Read the article here
Lion dancing is a huge part of Chinese martial arts, or wushu/kungfu. Performed by two people in a mythical lion costume, the dance is performed to heart-pounding percussion. The lion skillfully leaps, rolls, bats its eyelashes, and collects lucky red envelopes of cash. Local businesses will often pay kungfu troupes to come for grand
openings or Lunar New Year for good luck and fortune.
As shown in the video above, this is an art that can be taken to extraordinary heights of athleticism. Learn more about lion dancing in this New York Times piece.
Wait... it's not a dragon?
Since the Chinese lion dancers' costume looks like nothing like a lion, it's easy to confuse them with dragons, who also have an important place in Chinese New Year celebrations. Click here to tell the difference between lion and dragon dances.
Symbolic and pun-filled food 🐟
Of course, food is an important part of Chinese
New Year, as it is for most holidays. The foods we eat are not only delicious, but have a special meaning as well. Chinese New Year is about welcoming the coming spring, so many foods symbolize the desire for an abundant harvest, prosperity, and good luck.
For instance, Yee Sang is a Cantonese/South East Asian dish traditionally eaten on the 7th day of the new year. People toss a salad of raw fish, daikon radish, scallions, ginger, and other vegetables, in a marinade of crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, five-spice powder, plum sauce and sesame oil.The word for fish in Cantonese, yú 鱼，sounds like
the word for abundance, yù 裕.
They shout out wishes for the new years, and toss the salad in the air. The higher you toss, the better the luck!
Other auspicious foods include lotus root which symbolizes long life, because lotus root is very long, dumplings because they are shaped like gold ingots, alluding to prosperity for the coming year, and clams, which open up when they cook evoking flowers blooming, to welcome
the coming spring.
Fat Choy, shown here, is a dried seaweed whose name sounds like the Chinese words for "get rich".
Ritual importance of everyday aspects of life
There are many more symbolic foods that we eat for new year. Of course they aren’t a guarantee for long life, health and wealth, but they lend significance and auspiciousness to the dinners we enjoy with our families and friends. Chinese New Year celebrations also showcase the breadth and diversity of Chinese cultures, as there are so many different practices
that people do.
Like other holiday traditions, Chinese New Year rituals add meaning and joy to inevitable occasions - family dinners, cleaning the house, and the approach of spring.
Food in Crazy Rich Asians 🍚
If you've seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians and enjoyed it - definitely check out the books. Although it's not entirely representative of all Asians (especially those of us who are not "crazy rich"), it truly gives you a glimpse of the diversity of Chinese language, food, and
customs in China, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and the U.S.
Read the article here
✨ New Year Opportunities ✨
Apply for a Stardust grant -
the deadline is March 21st!
Are you an entrepreneur in the field of learning, sustainability, or health? We love cultural exploration, and care deeply about work that promotes sustainability and health! Proposals are accepted year-round, but our next application deadline is March 21, 2019.
Happy new year! 恭喜發財