Gong xi fa cai!

Happy New Year!

The observance of the New Year (Xin Nian) typically several days, but the New Year season lasts from the middle of the previous years’ final month to the middle of the first month in the new year.

In the system of reckoning time, years are named in cycles of sixty years. The name of the year repeats every sixty years, therefore.

2010 is the 11th year in the 60 year cycle and is called gengyin. It is the year 4707… year of the Tiger.


An upside down ("dao")
character – "Spring"

To prepare for the New Year, people give their houses thorough cleaning so as to symbolically sweeping misfortune or bad luck and make room for incoming good fortune that they want to arrive.

Doors and windows are often painted and decorated with paper cutouts depicting happiness, wealth and longevity. Characters on red paper are placed upside down on doors, because the Chinese word for "upside down" – "dao" – is like the word for "arrive", so, if the character for "spring" is put up upside down, that means that ‘spring is arriving". The same for "good fortune" etc.


Gongxi facai!

New Year is a time for family gatherings.

Among the foods that are eaten are jiaozi – a boiled dumpling, literally meaning "sleep together and have sons", the meaning of which is apparent.

Fish is also eaten because the Chinese word for "fish" sounds the same as that for "abundance".

One also eats a seaweed called fat choi, a word sounding "prosperity". Noodles symbolize a long life.

On New Year’s Eve you are to leave all the lights on in your house tonight, by the way. I hear that is very good luck – particularly for the electric company.

In the morning children get hong bao which are red envelopes with some money. They will customarily say "Where’s the red envelope?!?" until you cough it up.  Therefore, I will put my donation button on this post!

People visit their neighbors to greet each other.  You might think about doing that, since that can also be a work of mercy.

People give mandarin oranges as a token of good will and good fortune.

So, I greet all of you with a hearty Gongxi facai!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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25 Responses to Gong xi fa cai!

  1. Theodorus says:

    Happy Chinese New Year, Fr Z!

  2. Thursday says:

    Happy Chinese New Year Fr. Z. good to learn a new phrase. My previous repertoire of Chinese was limited to a list of swear words. Good to learn something I can actually use :)

  3. Maltese says:

    I grudgingly accept your “Happy Chinese New Year” :) Although no fan of the repressive Maos in power, I’m actually very fond of Chinese culture (especially food–I recently had the great ‘fortune’ to be taken to the best Chinese food I’ve ever had by a writer friend of mine in Los Angeles, the place dates to the second World War.)

    I’m in Portland, and they have an amazing Chinese Garden here, with native Chinese plants (which you can no longer import.) The Chinese and Japanese have a preternatural ability to create amazing garden spaces. I also love some of their art:

    http://www.designswan.com/archives/tag/bone-carving-art

  4. patergary says:

    Kung Hei Fat Choy! ???? 2010

  5. dimsum says:

    Father Z.: Xin Nian Hao!!!

    Interesting item from Hong Kong:

    The Lunar New Year is also bringing the local Church a lesson on inculturation.

    Since Ash Wednesday this year falls on the fourth day of the Lunar New Year (Feb. 17), the Church of Hong Kong dispensed the faithful from fasting and abstinence that day. However, they are obliged to choose some other suitable forms of penance or perform some works of charity, in keeping with the penitential spirit of the season of Lent.

    Taking into account the Lunar New Year festivities, the rite of the giving of ashes in Hong Kong may also be postponed to Feb. 24 (during Mass) or Feb. 26 (during Stations of the Cross).

    http://www.zenit.org/article-28335?l=english

  6. I just celebrated Gongxi Facai by watching the USA Women’s Hockey team plaster the Chinese. Their year can only get better.

    Maybe I’ll suggest to my wife that she give us one of those traditional “thorough house cleanings.” I’ll let you know how that works out for me…

  7. wanda says:

    Happy Chinese New Year, Fr. Z. and wdtprs’ers!

    (Louie V., discretion is the better part of valor.)

  8. fenetre says:

    I am Chinese. And I had a lot of fun deciphering all of Father’s deciphering of my culture’s traditions ;) You scored a 100, Father!

  9. Not to dampen our Chinese New Year or anything like that, but I would like to call everybody’s attention with a Filipino bishop who said “God is present in other religion and culture so the belief in Feng Shui, Astrology, and praying at Buddhist temples should be perceived as instruments that all draws us closer to God.”

    You can read more here. http://www.cbcpnews.com/?q=node/12184

    Just had a migraine.

  10. greg the beachcomber says:

    Maltese: Any chance you’d pass on the name of the restaurant where you ate the best Chinese food of your life, or are you just going to te(a)se us?

  11. Thomas S says:

    Beware of Japanese waitress serving fortune cookies.

  12. fenetre says:

    Seriously … there’s no such thing as fortune cookies in Chinese tradition. Definitely a gimmick ;)

  13. dimsum says:

    Fenetre, I am also Chinese….and agree with you, I never heard of fortune cookies before moving to the USA.

  14. Maltese says:

    Greg: honestly, can’t remember it. It was in the Chinatown Plaza, with a downstairs bar and upstairs eating area; the wonton was to die for, seriously!

  15. Maltese says:

    Although today is Gongxi facai, or the Chinese New Year; and I swear a Chinese woman almost ran me over. I don’t know if it’s God or the devil playing meaningful jokes like this on me, but the lady was so sorrowful that I couldn’t get mad at her. I think it’s questionable if women should be allowed to drive at all, but definitely, absolutely no Chinese woman should be licensed to drive….

    (btw: my wife is a better driver than I am, so I was kidding about the last part, although it is true an ethnic Chinese woman almost killed me today, inadvertently.)

  16. Sean og says:

    Thanks for the info, I’ve always wondered about the upside down character. Slightly off-topic, but still on things Chinese: I’ve been having an ailment treated by acupuncture, and it is working. However, a friend of mine was aghast, saying that it is incompatible with Christianity? Is this so, and if so, how?

    Thanks for a splendid site!

  17. anthtan says:

    Hi Father,

    Wishing you…

    shen ti jian kang
    xin xiang shi cheng

    …in the year of the Tiger 2010, and always.

    God bless.

  18. Konichiwa says:

    Happy New Year. I guess we could call it “Chinese New Year”, but then why don’t we start calling the “other” new years Egyptian or Mayan? My folks call it Tet, but I think it’d be best to call it in general lunar new year if anything.

  19. Konichiwa: Happy Lunar New Year!

  20. Art says:

    Happy Year of the Tiger Father! Here are some more dishes that are served and what they signify according to cantonese pronunciation:

    oysters – good things
    ox tongue – hard-earned profit
    pig’s pancreas – ill-gotten profit (profit not earned eg. gambling)
    lettuce – prosperity
    roast pork – strength and health
    taro/radish cake – promotions

    Pretty much everything asoociated with good health/long life, fame, and fortune.

  21. jt83 says:

    Happy New Year, Father Z! May this new year bring you many, many blessings.

  22. irishgirl says:

    Happy Chinese New Year, Father Z!

    Louie V-had no idea that the Chinese had a hockey team, male or female! Yeah, that was quite a ‘plastering’ on the part of the US ladies! 18 to 1, I think the final score was….

    FYI-the coach of the US womens’ hockey team is Mark Johnson, who was a member of the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey team. He scored the winning goal in the gold medal game against Finland.

  23. Dr. Eric says:

    “Slightly off-topic, but still on things Chinese: I’ve been having an ailment treated by acupuncture, and it is working. However, a friend of mine was aghast, saying that it is incompatible with Christianity? Is this so, and if so, how?

    Thanks for a splendid site!
    Comment by Sean og”

    Not to hijack Fr.’s post, but I practice acupuncture so I would be very hard to convince that acupuncture is incompatible with our Holy Faith. Science is discovering more and more the physiologic mechanisms of how this ancient healing technique works.

  24. Dr. Eric says:

    “The Lunar New Year is also bringing the local Church a lesson on inculturation.

    Since Ash Wednesday this year falls on the fourth day of the Lunar New Year (Feb. 17), the Church of Hong Kong dispensed the faithful from fasting and abstinence that day. However, they are obliged to choose some other suitable forms of penance or perform some works of charity, in keeping with the penitential spirit of the season of Lent.”

    I don’t see how this is different than giving a dispensation to eat “corned beef and cabbage” when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday during Lent.

  25. John 6:54 says:

    Amazingly my sister just sent my son one of these envelopes. Something she’s had in a box of her stuff for 35 years from when she went to Malaysia. He got $2 :-)