Location: Jian’ou, Fujian Province, China
Spring Festival has begun in China. As you know, the commencement of this is marked by a celebration of the lunar New Year- beginning on the 31st of January and ending of the 18th of February, 2015. According to the Chinese Zodiac or Shēngxiào (“birth likeness”), we are ending the Year of the Snake and entering the Year of the Horse. The twelve year cycle of animals is said to influence the lives of the individuals born under the various signs. I myself was born in a Horse year. Now, I’m not superstitious, but for others in a similar position (1966, 1978, 1990, or 2002) who may be curious, it is said that our fortune will be mixed. Financial independence is fairly certain (so we should say goodbye to student loan debt! huzzah!) and we will form a great many new relationships (hopefully quality ones), but we should be wary of health problems. We also should strive to work on time management and stave off unproductiveness and impatience. Honestly, I could see these predictions being fairly accurate.
For more info about the Horse and the other signs, check out this page, which supplies a variety of more in-depth fortunes.
Anyhoo, we participated in CNY festivities in the most traditional way possible, by heading to an outlying village to celebrate with Davi’s parents and grandparents. We learned many new rituals throughout our visit. The first: the hanging of the Spring Scrolls and Guardians. Hung on the left hand, right hand, and above the front door, the Scrolls are said to bring good luck, health, and prosperity to the household. The Guardians are said to ward off evil spirits. This tradition dates back over 2,000 years to a mythological text called “Shan Hai Jing.” In the story, two ghost hunters live on a peach tree overlooking the East Sea. They were very adept at catching evil spirits and feeding them to tigers. To protect their families, people began adorning their doors with wooden planks bearing the ghost hunters’ names. Later, the wood was replaced with pictures of the Guardians and a pair of rhyming couplets, or New Year’s blessings. People will also give offerings, light red insence and candles, and visit the local temple to pray for welfare and success.
Needless to say, we stuffed our faces with a delicious hot pot feast. The second ritual we learned was that of the New Year’s egg. Each member of the family peels an egg, drops it in the boiling water, fishes it out and eats it as a representation of fertility and growth in the new year. Conveniently for us vegetarians, no meat is eaten on the first day of the New Year to cleanse the body of toxins.
The third ritual is the loudest and possibly the most irritating. Each family will shoot off a series firecrackers to signal the start of their last meal of the year. They will also follow the meal with more firecrackers, fireworks, and children will play with sparklers. Youngins are also given gifts of lucky money contained in red pouches or envelopes, usually hung around their necks or tucked inside their jackets. The fireworks continue all throughout the night and into the morning, and the residue lines the streets and the entranceways to houses. It is not cleaned up for several days, for good luck, of course.
Check out these pictures and see for yourself!
Tomorrow, we leave on our epic train travels throughout China. Stay tuned for many new posts about the various cities we visit.
I hope you all have the most wonderful year (no matter what sign you are),
Famous Horses: Louisa May Alcott, Chopin, Davy Crockett, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Sandra Day O’Connor, Rembrandt, Teddy Roosevelt, Sir Isaac Newton, Barbara Streisand, Cindy Crawford, Cynthia Nixon, Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, Jason Biggs, Jackie Chan, Jerry Seinfeld, John Travolta, Leonard Bernstein, Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney, Rembrandt, Ashton Kutcher, Emma Watson, Josh Hartnett, Katie Holmes, Kristen Stewart, Kobe Bryant, Genghis Khan