Monday, January 24, 2011

Random Asianess: Oh Sure, Now We Decorate

In my last blog post (Taiwanese Traditions: They Don’t Include Christmas, January 4, 2011) I spoke about the lack of Christmas Decorations throughout the city. But things have changed, Chinese New Year approaches rapidly and guess what…it looks a lot like Christmas out here.

The stores are decorated; the city has embarked on an ambitious and colorful display welcoming the year of the rabbit. Hey, I’m getting into the Christmas Spirit and there’s only 11 months to go.

Rainie Yang
Chinese New Year to Taiwanese people is a time of hope and good cheer. People exchange gifts, mostly “Hong Bao’ which means red packet. A Red Packet is a gift of money that’s a wish for prosperity in the coming year. This is an important custom, many families use this red packet to provide support for elderly parents. You Tube has an interesting interview with Rainie Yang (a popular Taiwanese singer and actress: Chinese name Yang Cheng Lin) discussing the red packets. In the interview the interviewer asks if she will prepare red packets for her family. She replies that she won’t. The interviewer is clearly shocked, because Rainie Yang is very successful. Ms. Yang goes on to explain that she gives all of her earnings to her mother who provides for her.

Another custom is that on the first day of the new year, people greet each other with the phrase, “Gong shi” or in English, “congratulations,” congratulating them on surviving the previous year. My wife and I had a wonderful time greeting our neighbors with congratulations last year, because they seemed so surprised that we would know that bit of cultural information.

The legend of Chinese New Year is that a monster called “Nian” (which, by the way, is the mandarin word for year) travels throughout the world and consumes people on New Year’s Eve, unless the house is protected with red banners above and on the sides of the door. The monster will not go into a home protected like that. There is an interesting similarity to the Jewish Account of Passover (See this blog; Xin Nian Kuai Le – February 14, 2010 for a detailed post on this legend and Passover.)

This year Chinese New Year is on February 3. This is January 1, 4708 on the Lunar Calendar. Most of Taiwan’s Holidays and important days are celebrated on the lunar calendar. I asked a friend what day his birthday was and he answered, “On the Lunar Calendar or this year.” That has never been a complicated question for me, but I work with only one calendar. This year, in the Republic of China, is year 100. It is the centennial year of the Republic of China. 100 years since the Wuchang Uprising (See this blog, Taiwanese History: Double Tenth Day; October 21, 2010). This is interesting because all official government dates use this as the date. So really, in Taiwan there are three different calendars that are used. It can be a bit intimidating to ask a question like, “What’s the date?”

Artistic picture from the back of the scooter

Anyway, from the Taiwan Adventure Blog, happy Chinese New Year, If I see you after February 3rd I hope to be able to say , “gongshi,” if the monster get you, well then, it’s been good to know you.

All Photos, except Rainie Yang, by Elizabeth Banducci
Ranie Yang, Sony/BMG (No copyright infringement intended)

Other posts you may be interested in:

An American Presence:  What I Don't Miss in Taiwan
Taiwanese Traditions:  They Don't Include Christmas

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