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What's so Great about China and Chinese Traditions
China is an old yet a vast nation with great history, culture and people with fantastic traditions. As the Dalai Lama once said:" I think really, China, Chinese, I think they really have a long history of civilization, rich culture."
Chinese New Year
Among the great Chinese traditions is the celebration of the Chinese New Year. It has become one of the very few unique events that are celebrated around the world on quite an impressive magnitude. Every year Chinese New Year celebration is an occasion that is expected to make quite an impact to a lot of people , both Chinese and non-Chinese alike. The ways in which it is usually celebrated are interestingly colorful , exotic, symbolic and a lot of fun for everyone involved.
What’s worth noting about the Chinese New Year? Four remarkable features, among many, stand out for me: (1) the peaceful vibes of the animal sign, (2) the exciting food galore and its symbolism, (3) a fresh start for more energy, and (4) the colorful Chinese New Year lanterns.
The Chinese astrology is known for its twelve animal sign rotating cycle with each animal sign assigned to a year and representing a particular type of personality. One animal is designated for each year: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. In general, you will know which animal sign you belong depending on your birth year following the Chinese calendar and not the Gregorian calendar (starts on January). In particular, the exact hour, day and month of birth may vary your Chinese astrological animal sign. Those born during the year of a certain animal were believed to share some of the qualities and characteristics of that animal.
For example, the Chinese calendar designated the following animal signs for the next twelve years starting from the year 2012:
- 2012 23 January 2012 - 9 February 2013 -Dragon -Water
- 2013 10 February 2013 - 30 January 2014 -Snake -Water
- 2014 31 January 2014 - 18 February 2015 -Horse -Wood
- 2015 19 February 2015 - 7 February 2016 -Sheep -Wood
- 2016 8 February 2016 - 27 January 2017 -Monkey -Fire
- 2017 28 January 2017 - 15 February 2018 -Rooster -Fire
- 2018 16 February 2018 - 4 February 2019 -Dog -Earth
- 2019 5 February 2019 - 24 January 2020 -Pig -Earth
- 2020 25 January 2020 - 11 February 2021 -Rat -Metal
- 2021 12 February 2021 - 31 January 2022 - Ox -Metal
- 2022 1 February 2022 - 22 January 2023 - Tiger -Water
- 2023 22 January 3023 - 9 February 2024 - Rabbit -Water
Chinese traditions include the elements of water, wood, fire and earth in the Chinese calendar expected to dominate each year. The principles governing each element are also given as follows: Metal symbolizes fixity, strength, strength of will, fluency of speech. Water- powers of reflection, sensitivity, persuasiveness. Wood- imagination, creativity, idealism, compassion. Fire - dynamism, passion energy, aggression, and leadership. Earth - stability, reliability, practicality, industry, prudence.
Chinese food and their symbolism
What kind of festivity would it be without the tasteful Chinese cooking? One thing that many outsiders may not realize is that many of the aspects of the Chinese New Year celebrations have a very specific purpose and meaning even the food. Whether you are Chinese or not, you may find these ideas very interesting and worth trying.
When it comes to cooking for a Chinese New Year celebration, it is fascinating that Chinese traditions make certain that each food that is prepared has its very own meaning and a definite reason for being prepared. A list of basic food items for a typical Chinese New Year celebration with their symbolic meaning is outlined below. So, bring a big appetite with you in case you go Chinese and decide to celebrate.
- Dumplings are believed to bring wealth in the New Year to those who eat them on this special day. Since wealth is something that many people wish to accumulate, so, this is one way to pave the way.
- Bamboo shoots, black moss seaweed, egg rolls, and oranges are symbolic of wealth .
- Noodles, Chinese garlic chives, and peanuts are for long life. More people are concerned about longevity and these foods are something that the Chinese are quite famous for such attribute. The secret however, to that long life was in consuming the proper foods as part of the New Year festivities.
- Lettuce, whole fish, and pomelo are supposed to bring prosperity to the consumer.
- Whole fish and pomelo- in addition to prosperity , these foods believed to bring abundance and togetherness (as in marriage or romance) during the coming year.
- Chicken is the main course if happiness is the goal. It is also associated with marriage, particularly when served with foods such as lobster that are considered to be dragon foods).
- Eggs, seeds (such as watermelon seeds), and pomelo- add these food items if you are planning for children in the near future. Add the last two items especially if you want several children.
- Tangerine or seaweed- add these items to your plate on this special day if luck is what you are most in need of. You may want to double up on your servings of both to get out of bad luck.
There are varied recipes to help you celebrate in a traditional setting as much as possible. Foods such as Jiaozi (Chinese noodles) and egg rolls are commonly found online. Add a few lettuce wraps and longevity noodles and you have a good grip on the good things that most of us hope will come our way in the coming year. Take time to enjoy cooking and preparing the dishes that make a Chinese New Year or any other Chinese celebration so special as well as you enjoy eating them.
Colorful Chinese lanterns
Chinese lanterns are a very integrated part of the Chinese traditions that goes back to the very early days of their culture. Each year they hold the lantern festival where thousands of them are lit and displayed.
The Chinese lanterns are very beautiful and with quite unique designs. People take a great deal of pride in making them themselves rather than buying ready-made lanterns. Children make them using colorful materials and shape them like animals, especially those that have special years named after them in the tradition of the Chinese New Year. The size and design of the lanterns have certainly changed over the years, yet, the true meaning behind them remains.
Many teachers in some parts of the world find that talking to their class about the Chinese culture is in order. They often conclude their sessions with an activity where the students actually make Chinese lanterns and take them home. It is a great way for them to learn about history from other cultures around the world.
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