For most of us, red is the color of love; for the Chinese, however, the color red means more than just love: It also represents the fire element, and symbolizes luck, prosperity, and happiness.
Chinese and Chinese-Filipino residents have different ways of using the color red during Chinese New Year, and one of them is by dressing up their homes with large red strips of paper called Chun Lian, which means spring festival couplets in Chinese. Read on for more Chinese New Year trivia that will make you look at this holiday in a different light:
1. The red strips of paper hung outside homes also serve as messengers of prosperity. Typically gracing the entrance of Chinese-Filipino homes, these red strips of paper contain messages promoting good health and fortune for the New Year. Whether you are Chinese or not, you can purchase these in stores, or even make your own and practice your calligraphy skills should you desire to take your DIY skills to the next level.
2. There are two flowers associated with Chinese New Year. The Chinese give due importance to flowers and flower arrangements during the New Year. Two of the most important ones are the plum blossom and water narcissus, with the former blossoming after winter and the latter blossoming during the New Year. These two flowers are important in Chinese tradition as they symbolize courage and hope (for plum blossoms), and good luck and prosperity (for water narcissus). Home owners usually decorate the entrance of their homes or their living rooms with these flowers to welcome Chinese New Year.
3. Families stay up until midnight for Chinese New Year. Just like how non-Chinese people celebrate the New Year, part of Chinese tradition is for families to wait until 12 midnight to welcome the year and greet their loved ones. Known as Shou Sui (which literally means watching and waiting for the year), the tradition also involves launching fireworks to celebrate. But instead of eating out, they prefer enjoying sumptuous, home-cooked meals together with their loved ones.
4. Dogs are special! Contrary to allegations that China does not love dogs (case in point: the controversial Yulin Festival), old Chinese beliefs point to the fact that dogs are special and well-revered. In fact, the second day of Chinese New Year is considered the birthday of all dogs. Dog owners can celebrate this day by giving their pets extra special treatment, be it through sumptuous yummy snacks, a leisurely walk, or a relaxing bath.
5. 4% of the world’s population are on the move. Expect heavy traffic in China during Chinese New Year, as the holiday is a massive exodus when mainland Chinese scattered around the region return to their homes to be reunited with their families. Statistics state that around 200 million Chinese would travel long distances during the holidays, with some of them coming from other countries. So the next time you get frustrated with Metro Manila traffic, think of the bright side: It’s not as bad as in China during the holidays!
6. The lion dance and dragon dance have different origins. While both the lion dance and dragon dance are associated in bringing good luck and prosperity, they have different origins. The former is derived from the legend of the monster Nian, where villagers make use of a lion and the color red to drive Nian away. The latter, however, originates from the Han Dynasty, and is based on the dragon’s authoritative and powerful nature. How to differentiate a lion dance from a dragon dance? A lion dance involves two people, and their faces can be barely seen. The dragon dance, on the other hand, involves multiple performers, and their faces are visible to the audience.
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Illustrations by Jana Jimenez