Chinese New Year

So, since the internet probably doesn’t know that I’m Taiwanese– wait… oh okay I just said it. :}  Anyways, I feel somewhat obliged to write a post on Chinese New Year (and yes, I know I’m late).  But since I’m Taiwanese, the Chinese words below are in traditional form, not simplified.

My reasons of writing this?

One: because it’s “part of my culture.”
Two: Kids in Taiwan get almost a full month off to celebrate (Yup…)
Three: it’s pretty interesting.
Four: My mom and brother are both the year of the horse.
Five: I just got back from celebrations?

A/N: I have the “phonetic spellings” of some of the Chinese words.  However did not put the stress markings, so if you try pronouncing and epically failing, well you tried and made yourself seem foolish to Chinese-speakers?

30253-Vector-Horse-Chinese-New-year新年快樂!(Happy Chinese New Year!) -> xin nian kuai le

恭喜發財 --紅包拿來!(Best wishes for a prosperous new year–[kids say this part a lot during new years…] Now give me the red envelope [cause there’s money] !  -> gong xi fa cai– hong bao na lai

49f6ab6471a0eRed envelopes with Taiwanese currency… But since I live in America, I get dollar bills or dollar coins. 🙂 — You always give new bills.  Never used. Better luck that way!

To begin with, almost all kids are taught the “yearly wheel.” Hint: One way to politely ask someone their age is to ask what year (animal) they are… and from there, you guess.  The order of animals is: Dragon (龍- long),  Snake (蛇- se), Horse (馬- ma), Sheep (羊- yang), Monkey (猴- hou), Rooster (雞- ji), Dog (狗- gou), Pig (豬- zhu), Ox (牛- niu), Tiger (虎- hu), and Rabbit (兔- tu).


There are other sayings during Chinese New Years to wish them prosperity, luck, and happiness.  You will usually use these phrases before someone gives you your red envelope(s).  I’ll only list a few below and their general meanings:

新年快樂 (xin nian kuai le)- Happy New Years! (Probably one of the most common phrase you’ll hear)

恭喜發財 (gong xi fa cai)- Best wishes for a prosperous new year! (stated above but the literal translation is “Congratulations and Prosperity.”)

年年有餘  (nian nian you yu)- After all your spending, you still have plenty of money left.
餘 sounds like 魚, or fish, so on many red envelopes there are pictures of fish (mostly koi fish).red-envelope

馬到成功 (ma dao cheng gong)- You will succeed in the year of horse.

吉祥如意 (ji xiang ru yi)- Wish you have good fortune and everything goes smoothly.

歲歲平安 (sui sui ping an)- Wishing you peace and fortune. (Also said if something like glassware breaks during the New Years because 歲 sounds like 碎 which means shattered to ward off the “bad luck” and to put a positive spin on things.)

The story of 年 (Nian):

The story of 年 is that during the first day of every lunar month, the monster would wake up and destroy villages and hunt people.  The people eventually got help from a wise traveler (in most versions I’ve been told) that to ward Nian off, they needed to make loud noises (set off firecrackers and bang pots and pans), and put up the color red everywhere (papers on homes and fire).  The advice worked and the monster ran when eventually he (in some versions) died of exhaustion or was exhausted then the people killed him.  Ever since, every year the people celebrated their safety from Nian by setting off fireworks, playing with firecrackers, putting and wearing the color red, and making loud noises.

m_1316681248895Nian is depicted many different ways.

Now for a few of the traditions:

Fireworks, Firecrackers, and noise: people would use the because it’s said to ward off the dragon 年 (nian), also referred to as the 年獸 (nian shou).

Red: Nian is afraid of the color red so fire, red clothing, and red posters are always seen during New Years.

倒福 (dao fu): It is a tradition to stick a picture of the word “福” (fu) up-side-down on the doors of a house to symbolize “luck/fortune has arrived,” or  “福到我家。” (fu dao wo jia)

IMG_2226The posters on the side of the door in the picture above are typical sayings for spring (note the red).

Traditional foods. Because who doesn’t love food? Nobody.

There are a lot of traditional foods people eat during 中國新年 (zhong guo xin nian- Chinese New Year), so I’m only going to a few below.

chinese-new-year-food7For wealth and luck.

Long Noodles= Long Life

Sweet Chinese New Years’ Cake, or 年糕 (nian gao)。The red dates, seeds, nuts = “early prosperity”


Fish (魚 or yu)  for extra money or food. (see above: 年年有餘)

Chinese dumplings1Most dumplings are made to be shaped like ancient money.

And the last one I’m going to list: 發糕 (fa gao)  for prosperity (literally called “prosperity cake”)

Well, I hope you learned something. 🙂 If you have questions or comments, feel free to post below.


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