Here's How to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Jennifer Allen Frank - Chinese New Year landed on the new moon of January 23, 2012 in the U.S. It is the Year of the Black Water Dragon. The Chinese New Year is a time to welcome longevity, wealth and prosperity and to eliminate negative chi from the past. This year will be marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. The year of the dragon is traditionally associated with new beginnings and good fortune. Those with entrepreneurial spirit are particularly favored to see much success in the coming year. Generally, it's predicted that any new venture may benefit from the outstanding luck often associated with the dragon. Therefore, 2012 will be a very good year to get married, have children, and/or start a new business.

The water dragon is a less imperious type of Dragon who favors optimum growth and expansion. He can put aside his ego for the good of all and is less selfish and opinionated. He can assume a wait and see attitude, and his wits are as formidable as his strength of will. The water dragon lives by the “do unto others” philosophy.

Since 2012 is the year of the Water Dragon, the liquid element is predicted to calm the dragon's usually tempestuous nature, and will give a thoughtful perspective to the plight of the less fortunate. Water is calming and beneficial to this lunar sign, enabling him to know how to act wisely and do what is essential for his progress. He is quick and reliable and is capable of marketing his ideas with untiring devotion. He is likely to be successful as a negotiator; He must learn to make difficult choices and relinquish whatever is unfeasible or unnecessary. This way, he will be able to devote his energies to fewer but more rewarding endeavors. As the world suffers through one of the worst economic calamities in recent memory, bold new leadership will help ease the circumstances of those suffering most from recent financial setbacks.

Dragons who can pursue their own passionate ambitions while meeting the needs of others are best suited to navigating the year ahead. Those compatible with the Dragon — the Rat and the Snake in particular — will also find 2012's circumstances inspiring them to greater personal happiness and professional success.

House cleaning should be done on or before the day of the eve of Chinese New Year. Starting early in the morning, someone goes to the flower-market to buy red flowers for the worship events and new year’s day decoration. Red is the auspicious color in China.

The first event on the Chinese New Year Eve is to worship the Jade Emperorearly in the morning with flowers and fruit, without any animal sacrifices (top ranking gods are vegetarian), to thank the protection from the god of heaven in the past year and to pray for safety, smoothness and luck for the coming year.

Many families work on their final house decoration. They need to finish the decoration on the doors and windows. Chinese calligraphers write the New Year's poetry on the red color paper and people paste them on the top and both of sides of main-entry door. They said this custom comes from the story of the man-eater, Nian animal, who was afraid of red. At the beginning, people drew images of the Chinese diety on the red-color peach tree wood and hung it on the door to scare the devil spirit away. Later, the Chinese used red color paper instead. The popular characters are Spring, Luck, Money, Happiness, Wealth, Safety or Prosperity. Some are posted upside down, because the sound of upside-down in Chinese is similar to the word of come. So the upside-down MONEY poster means money comes. The upside-down LUCK poster means the luck comes.

In the afternoon around 2 or 3 P.M., the Chinese need to say good-bye to the current year by telling the gods and ancestors at the family Buddhist altar, putting  Nian-Gao (sweet rice cake), Fa-Gao (steamed rice cake), animal sacrifices (duck, chicken or fish), fruit, drink, and candy with big red candles. A long time ago, it was special to put a hundred coins tied with red thread to bring good money luck and bring longevity of 100 years. Today, people put as much cash as they can instead.

After saying goodbye to gods and ancestors, women begin to prepare the dinner. The main dish sitting on the center of the table is Hot-Pot. The traditional Hot-Pot is a big metal bowl and has a hollow tube in the center. Chinese put hot bone soup in the bowl and cook different kind of sliced meat, seafood, vegetable, meat balls and seafood balls during the dinner. They put hot-rock or hot-coal inside the hollow tube to keep food warm then they can eat the dinner for hours.

There are many dishes on the dinner table. Every dish has an auspicious meaning behind it. It's connected to longevity, perfection, good luck, health, satisfaction and promotion based on the homophone of the dish's name. Family members are supposed to have some from every dish. So they can eat and chat for a longer time and share love and care during this time.

After dinner, it is an exciting time for the children. They are waiting for New Year's Hong Bao which is a Red Envelope containing brand-new money.  Children will put all Red Envelopes under their pillow when sleeping so they will sleep well without any bad dreams and become richer during the next year. After receiving the Red Envelopes, young people like to go outside for the vigil of the year. Before midnight, they gather with friends or relatives around a park, riverside or tall buildings to wait for the Chinese New Year fireworks.

The last event is the vigil to wait for the coming New Year. One main reason is this can extend parents’ lifespan. Many people will gather outside the temple after dinner; everyone wants to be the first person of the year to be blessed by the God. There is the first incense stick race at many temples every year. On the first second of Rat hour at 11 P.M., as soon as the temple's main gate is opened, people will dash into the temple to insert the incense stick into the incense container. The winner will win a big Red-Envelope from the temple. But the most important thing is the winner will be very lucky in the coming year.


Jennifer Ellen Frank is Sheffield School’s Feng Shui Advisor. Frank has been a Feng Shui practitioner in New York City for over twenty years. For more information, check out her websiteInterested in learning more about Feng Shui? Take a look at Sheffield School's Complete Course in Feng Shui