Gung Hay Fat Choy! or Gong Xi Fa Cai! (wishing you happiness and prosperity) to everyone who celebrates the Lunar New Year (which begins February 18).
Ten things I learned when I was researching the Chinese New Year scene in my novel, The Truth About Rats (and Dogs):
1. Chinese New year is a fifteen-day celebration beginning on the first lunar new moon and ending on the full moon.
2. The second day is the birthday of all dogs.
3. The third day is the wedding day of the rats.
4. You shouldn’t shampoo your hair on New Year’s Day, or the year’s good luck will be washed away.
5. The colour white is for funerals (don’t bring white flowers to a Chinese New Year’s dinner!)
6. The colour red is a sign of good luck because it is associated with fire, the sun, life energy, and lifeblood, which demons fear.
7. Giving and receiving lucky money is considered good luck (passing on the family’s luck to the children).
8. Lucky foods include a sea moss that looks like black hair and means prosperity, long Chinese string beans for longevity, and whole fish (including head and tail) for a good start and a good finish to the year.
9. Lions are considered protectors in China. Lion dancers scare demons away and bring prosperity to Chinatown businesses.
10. Cookies shared on New Year’s include gok jai, small flaky pockets filled with a sugary coconut, peanut and sesame seed filling (a friend brought me the cookies below to help with my “research”).
A good source of info is the book, Good Luck Life: the essential guide to Chinese American celebrations and culture by Rosemary Gong (HarperCollins 2005.) Also, if anyone is interested, I have a bit more about Chinese New Year posted on my blog: http://www.wildink.wordpress.com.