In China, the celebrations (and sales) have already begun. Wheeee! I can imagine the lanterns and abundant red decorations, the fireworks, and burning paper money! This money is also referred to as joss paper, and it is burned along with incense in many Chinese rituals. Joss paper is used as an intermediary between worlds, transferring the tangible into the ethereal and spiritual world. Rituals such as these help us to maintain family continuity, and preserve connections with our ancestors.
In Chinese mythology, a mythical, horned beast named Nian is said to rise from the sea floor (or the mountains) and eat children and livestock on the first day of the year. In order to distract Nian’s toothy scariness *away* from devouring our beloveds, the Chinese people would stock plenty of food at their front doors, as if to say, “Eat this, Nian! Not my friend!” Also, loud sounds like firecrackers and the color red are said to scare away Nian.
Nian, as a mythological beast, has represented different things throughout the years, mostly serving as a reminder of calamity and destruction; and therefore, the need to take action against it. Nian has also represented poverty in the 80s and 90s. Not surprisingly, these are years where China made a lot of progress economically.
Yesterday I read an interesting personal story about rituals and heritage in the context of a Taiwanese American family, by Emily Chen.
“We may already be a few weeks into January, but I’ve just warmed up to the new year — right in time to welcome Chinese New Year at the end of the month. In recent years, I started treating Chinese New Year as a second chance to start the year fresh. As if January 1 is the soft launch and the arrival of the next Chinese zodiac sign marks the true beginning to another annual cycle. As an added bonus, Chinese New Year extends the holiday season for me by an extra month or so… continue“
As a person who likes to keep in tune with the lunar movements (as well as the solar movements), I can certainly relate to her written passage above. Again, “[It’s] as if January 1 is the soft launch and the arrival of the next Chinese zodiac sign marks the true beginning to another annual cycle.” So…, if you’re also into celebrating the Lunar New Year, please enjoy the Lion Dance (below) and start your New Year’s ‘True Launch’ now!!!!
What a remarkable dance it is! More to come!