Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chinese New Year, Robert Frost Remembrance Day, Grandma's Birthday, January 29th

Absent-minded Secretary almost forgot that today is the first day of The Year of the Dog. Thank goodness that I called my grandma to wish her a happy birthday, and that Grandma went to a Chinese New Year celebration this morning, because her daughter-in-law, my aunt, is Cantonese. So, after I talked to my grandma, I called my aunt to get all the info.

Chinese New Year officially begins with the first New Moon of the new year and ends on the Full Moon 15 days later. The First Day of Chinese New Year is celebrated with fireworks and a paper dragon parade. The fifteenth day is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and a parade of children carrying lanterns.

The New Year's celebration is a family celebration, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. Ancestors are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations of honor for the family.

The first day of Chinese New Year, the presence of the ancestors is acknowledged with a dinner. It is believed that the spirits of the ancestors, together with the living, celebrate the onset of the New Year as one great whole. The meal is commonly called "surrounding the stove." This feast symbolizes family unity and honors both past and present generations.

The third and fourth days of the New Year are for honoring in-laws.

The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one should visit anyone on the fifth day because it will bring very bad luck to all involved.

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. So, be sure to drink your V-8 on the seventh day. This day is also considered the birthday of human beings. Noodles are eaten to promote longevity and raw fish for success, so this would be a good night to treat your friends and family to sushi.

The tenth through the twelfth are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner for much feasting and partying.

On the thirteenth day you should only eat simple foods that will cleanse the body, to allow yourself to recover from the days of partying and to prepare for the Lantern Festival.

The fourteenth day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is to be held on the fifteenth night.

Customarily, during all this feasting, people are to give oranges to their family, friends, and neighbors, because in mandarin, the word "orange" sounds like "chi", which means "good luck". People present oranges to express their respects and good wishes for the coming year.

Children and unmarried friends, are given "lai see," little red envelopes with new one dollar bills inserted, for good fortune. (Finally, a reason for remaining single.)

The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. Sweeping or dusting especially should not be done on the first day of New Year, because all the good fortune could be swept away be swept away. If you must clean today all trash must be taken out the back door to fully utilize the New Year chi.

If you cry during New Year, you will cry all through the year. To avoid all crying in your home, children should be tolerated and not spanked, even if they act mischievous, or even if they get ugly.

On New Year's Day, we are not suppose to wash our hair because it would mean we would have washed away good luck for the New Year. (Too late, damn it. I washed away my good luck.)

Red clothing is preferred during these two weeks. Red is good chi. It is a bright, happy color, and is sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. (Wow, I am going to have to do some major changes.)

Today my grandma told me that on this day in 1963, Robert Frost died. I just wanted to take a moment to remember the origin of Blue-Butterfly Day, Dust of Snow, The Freedom of the Moon,
and of course Acquainted with the Night, and Once by the Pacific... and I'm not even covering the poems that we all had to memorize in Junior High, but that are still wonderful.

Happy Birthday Grandma!!!

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