Celebrating a different type of New Year

  • Posted on January 22, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Celebrating a different type of New Year

The following blog post was written by Avanade alum Elaine Li.

Many across the globe rang in the New Year on Jan. 1 but for many others, New Year celebrations will take place at a different time of the year.

Chinese New Year is a tradition that marks the first day of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. As the calendar is based on both the phases of the moon and the solar year, there is no fixed date for the tradition. It typically occurs between late January and late February, and this year it falls on Jan. 25. 2020 is the Year of the Rat, the first of the 12 zodiac animals which represent each year of the Chinese calendar (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig). This means that it is the beginning of another 12-year cycle!

Chinese New Year is also commonly known as the Lunar New Year as it is celebrated by many cultures in Asia who follow a similar calendar, such as Vietnam and Korea. Depending on where it is celebrated, festivities can last over two weeks and the number of days declared as national holidays vary.

For the majority of the Chinese community, Chinese New Year is seen as the most important festival of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated with family and symbolizes a new beginning with hopes for health, prosperity and good fortune in the upcoming year.

Chinese New Year is a busy time for most Chinese families, and this certainly holds true for my family. My memories of New Year celebrations revolve around the pivotal role that my mother, Mama Li, would play in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Day; multiple grocery trips were required and there was a lot of spring cleaning to get rid of the old and welcome in the new. The highlight of this annual tradition is getting together for a family dinner every Chinese New Year’s Eve to celebrate over what is known as a “reunion meal.” Mama Li would prepare a colorful feast of meat, fish and vegetable dishes, along with rice and a steaming bowl of soup. Each dish would be meticulously prepared with various ingredients sounding similar to positive words or phrases to give blessings for the new year. For example, lettuce sounds like making money and lotus root symbolises yearly abundance, so these tend to be popular ingredients.

As New Year’s Eve would draw to an end, my siblings and I would receive red envelopes containing money, given during celebrations like weddings and Chinese New Year, from our parents. Traditionally, they’re red because the color is another element of luck, but in recent years, a wide range of colours and designs including New Year-themed cartoons have become increasingly common. The amount given in a red envelope is usually an even number, with the exception of the number ‘4’ (which is an unlucky number in Chinese culture), as it is believed that good things come in pairs. New Year wishes of good health, good grades and plenty of luck would then be exchanged after receiving the red envelopes. You’ll often see such New Year greetings written in black ink on red paper which are used for decoration. The idea is to spread as much luck as possible and add to the cheery New Year’s atmosphere.

As we enter the Year of the Rat, this is an excellent time to learn more about a prominent cultural festival. This can be anything from speaking to your colleagues who are celebrating, reading up on the history of the festival or seeing if there are any events taking place near your home where you can even join in! Avanade is an incredible melting pot of cultures, and I’m pleased to be able to share some personal insight into a tradition that holds great significance to me, as part of the work that the Beyond (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) affinity group does in the UK&I to promote multicultural awareness. Having such a network in place is a true indicator of the culture we have, and it makes me feel that my perspective is respected and valued.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and may everything go well! 新年快樂, 萬事如意!

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