The new year for Chinese families is a time of ensuring good luck, cleaning up your home and yourself and family — lots of family.
The Chinese year 4706, the Year of the Rat, begins Thursday, but preparations are already under way for parades and the traditional flower market at which Chinese are supposed to buy young buds of plum blossom and daffodils to celebrate spring and the new year.
The Rev. Norman Fong, with the Chinatown Community Development Center, shared the traditional preparations and machinations a family goes through to bring in the new year, saying that the traditions symbolize a fresh start and an optimistic look forward to the year.
Fong said that first there is the street fair and the flower fair because everyone is supposed to buy flower buds because the new year is about spring and “new beginnings.”
“The key is everything is about to bloom,” he said.
As the Chinese encounter others, especially seniors, they offer traditional blessings such as “Good health to you.”
Many traditions are intergenerational because older Chinese people take care of youths by handing out red envelopes filled with coins or cash, Fong said.
“I’ll go broke sometimes,” Fong said, noting that his college-age son was expecting a nice sum of money.
He expected up to 30 family members to come into town for the celebration.
The red envelopes are not the only cash-oriented tradition, Fong noted; another good luck measure undertaken is ridding yourself of debts before the end of the year.
That measure of “cleanliness” is matched by the bottom-to-top cleaning of the house Chinese families traditionally do, Fong said. By cleaning the house, absolving debts, buying flower buds, buying new clothes and getting a haircut, Chinese people are entering the new year with luck on their side, Fong said.
And don’t forget resolutions, he said.
“Like the calendar new year, people make New Year’s resolutions. It’s like that but people are serious. It’s not a joke — it’s ‘I gotta lose weight,’” Fong said. “It’s brand new. It’s like Lent.”
After Chinese families are done feasting on vegetarian meals New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day traditions are almost reversed as the previous days.
“We’re not supposed to shower and wash our hair because it washed away the good luck,” Fong said. “It’s really a good luck day.”