Today begins the Year of the Rabbit or XinMao (stem-branch), for you Chinese Astrology buffs out there. =) The animals repeat themselves every 12 years and the stem-branch names repeat every 60! The date of the New Year changes, as it goes by the second new moon that follows the Winter Solstice. During this time, white and black colors are avoided, as they represent mourning, while red and gold are found everywhere to symbolize fire (which wards off bad luck) and prosperity. Much like we honor Brigid of the Hearth and Home, the Chinese offer a sacrifice to the Kitchen God (Zaowang) who is considered to be the guardian of the family hearth.
There are 15 days of celebration (one hell of a party, if I don't say so myself!)
The first day of the Lunar New Year is "the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth."Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the new year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them.
On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs.
The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law.
The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits families and friends on the fifth day because it will bring both parties bad luck.
On the sixth to the 10th day, the Chinese visit their relatives and friends freely. They also visit the temples to pray for good fortune and health.
The seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. These farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion. The seventh day is also considered the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success.
On the eighth day the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner, and at midnight they pray to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.
The ninth day is to make offerings to the Jade Emperor.
The 10th through the 12th are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner. After so much rich food, on the 13th day you should have simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) to cleanse the system. The 14th day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is to be held on the 15th night. (I got this information off of a Chinese celebration web site, but I couldn't seem to find an author. If you know who it is, let me know so I can give proper credit!)
This is an occasion to unite with families and loved ones- enjoying each other and the love and honor you share!
Now go, and feast your face off! (Who doesn't love a good feast!!) Woo-hoo!!