First Day of Chinese New Year: Deities of Heaven and Earth, Welcome.

The Taiwan Flag and New Year lanterns out front of a Temple

The Taiwan Flag and New Year lanterns out front of a Temple

Day one of Chinese New Year is the day for welcoming the Gods of the heavens and earth.  At the same time, the evil spirits need to be chased away, hence the non-stop fireworks. In the Western world, fireworks take place on New Years Eve, and then everyone must wait another year for the time to pop them off again (unless you are cheeky and hide a stash to light off in the middle of the year).

Not here. This morning when I woke up, the fireworks were still going. And tonight as I write this, the fireworks are yes, you guessed it- still going strong.

For Buddhists the first day is the birthday of Maitreya Bodhisattva, the Buddha-to-be. In reverence, they abstain from killing animals and eating from meat because it is believed to ensure longevity. I had the intentions of following this one, but my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a pub with traditional English food, and I could not say no to the delicious aroma of bangers and mash. However, I did follow the other customs for the day.

1. No lighting fires, using brooms, using knives, or cooking.

Many consider lighting fires, using knives or cooking brings bad fortune. It is also believed that using a broom will literally sweep away any good fortune that the New Year may bring.

Most families cook the day before and eat leftovers on New Year’s day to avoid cooking, or simply eat out. Dom and I chose to eat cold food during the day, and to go out for dinner. Believe it or not, we found an English pub called Conway’s right here in our neighborhood. My boyfriend is English, so you can imagine how delighted he was.  I enjoyed a meal of bangers and mash served in Yorkshire pudding, and he had the Cottage Pie, which was phenomenal (however, nowhere near as good as his mom’s). Earlier in the day, we went on a bike ride to the sea, and Dom popped into a 7-11 for a quick snack. Usually, the cashier offers to heat up the food in the microwave, but today she did not. I wonder if this has anything to do with the no cooking rule…

Bangers and mash, and peas in Yorkshire Pudding.

Bangers and mash, and peas in Yorkshire Pudding.

As for the no knife custom, it was hard to abstain from my daily knife-throwing act, but I managed. Lastly, I hid the Swiffer, just in case I had sweeping withdrawals. Anybody who quits cold turkey can tell you that “out of sight out of mind” is definitely the way to go.

2. Honor your elders.

Today is the day that all families pay a visit to the eldest members of their families. All throughout the day I saw families with their grandparents. There were many elders in wheelchairs being pushed around in the park. Seeing as I have no family here and no living grandparents, I called my parents.

3. Give employees a bonus!

On this day, employers give their employees bonuses in red envelopes. I would have liked to be on the receiving end of this one, but didn’t hold my breath. Maybe it just got lost in the mail?

Well, I hope that the Gods from heaven and earth will now feel welcomed in my house, because they are the type of house guests that don’t annoying after three days. These folks can stay for as many cups of tea and games of scrabble as they like.

 

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Comments

  1. Very interesting traditions!

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