Happy New Year
(click on images to enlarge)
Chinese New Year
“For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.
This moment takes place in ancient Egypt. Israel has been in bondage as slaves in Israel for 400 years. Moses has been called by God to deliver the people of God. Nine of the plagues have already played out. The Nile had turned to blood. There had been plagues of frogs, lice and flies. Disease had killed the cattle. The people suffered from boils: Hail fire and thunder. There were locusts that destroyed the crops. Three days of darkness and now the scene was set for the most devastating of all; the death of the first born. So God called the people to prepare.
He gave them direction (Exodus 12:3-12) to prepare a special meal of lamb and bitter herbs: These things being symbolic of The Lamb of God and the bitterness of their bondage. They were to prepare to leave. And eat in haste. There was one final instruction in Exodus 12:22:
22 “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.
By now some of you think that I made a mistake. The title says “Chinese New Year,” why talk about Israel, the plagues and Passover.
There is an interesting tradition in Chinese New Year. Normally, when you greet a neighbor on the street you would say to them Ni hao (Knee How) or Zao an (dzow ahn) or just zao (dzow). Ni hao means hello, Zao or Zao an means Good morning. However, on the morning of Chinese Greeting the proper greeting is Gongshi (gong (o as in home) shee) gong shee. The word gongshi translates as congratulations. Why congratulate people? This is where the Passover comes in:
One of the traditions of the Chinese New Year, is the cleaning of the house. People clean their houses. It’s like the annual deep cleaning. What we call Spring Cleaning. The trash trucks came down our street twice a day for the last week as people brought a year’s accumulation down to the street to be disposed of. People were making preparations to leave their homes for nine days. The Bible tells us that God told the Israelis to prepare to travel.
11 ‘And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.
This is the biggest travel week of the year in China as people rush home to participate in the New Year’s Eve traditions with their families.
The second similarity between Chinese New Year and Passover is the blood on the doorway. God told the people to splash the blood of a lamb on the doorframe in the house: Across the top and on the sides of the doorway. This is a sign that the people are God’s people and the angel of death was to pass over those homes and not take the firstborn.
22 “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.23 “For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.
The tradition in China is to put red banners across the doorway: Across the top and on the sides, in the same way that the Israelis did in ancient Egypt.
This is the significance of those banners. The belief is that a monster roams throughout China on New Years Eve. The monster will come into your house and kill you UNLESS, there is a red banner because the monster is afraid of the color red. That’s why on New Year’s Day people greet each other with the word “gongshi”. Congratulations, the monster didn’t get you this year.
The third similarity has to do with the preparation of a meal. The Israelis ate Passover, in a meal designed by God to symbolize his deliverance. In China, a meal is prepared and a table set for the God of heaven.
This isn’t the God Christians and Jews worship, but he is called the creator and is the Governor of all the other Gods of Taoism. He controls the actions of the local deities and household gods. This meal is an offering.
The final similarity is the timing of Chinese New Year. It is the celebration of the new years on the Lunar Calendar. Passover is also celebrated on the lunar calendar but I believe it is the second month.
My personal take on Chinese New Year is that it is a festive week full of joy and hope for people. The atmosphere is much like the atmosphere we enjoy during Chanukkah and Christmas. Families are together, feasts are laid out; gifts are purchased and red packets are exchanged. (A red Packet is a gift of money from Children to parents, Parents to Children and Grandchildren.) The red packet is a wish of prosperity for the person to whom it is given.
Driving around the downtown area was interesting during this time as people were shopping and rushing and all of the things that were missing at Christmastime. Police were directing traffic at 10:30 at night as people shopped and played all over the downtown area. I was drawn to the place, but often regretted trying to ride my scooter down there once I got there.
Other posts you may be interested in:
Taiwanese Traditions: Chinese New Year: The Legend of Nian
Random Asianess: Oh Sure, Now We Decorate
Eating My Way Through Taiwan: Buddha Jumps Over the Wall