(Xīn de yī nián, xīn de nǐ) “New Year, new you.”
As the New Moon approaches, so does the Lunar New Year (an eclipse this year to boot!). 2018 will be celebrated as the Year of the Earth Dog throughout China and many Asian countries. For those born in the Year of the Dog, this coming year will be a time for clearing out obstacles and removing anxiety, but everyone is encouraged to participate.
To start the year off right, tradition gives us highly symbolic acts to make the very best of this time of renewal. Though these traditions vary widely, some of the most universal include lighting firecrackers, visiting temples, honoring ancestors, reuniting with family, giving children red envelopes filled with money, and wearing red, gold and other bright colors!
One of my favorite traditions is eating from the whole fish, with head and tail remaining, as everything has a beginning, middle and end. Do not flip the fish over on its back to get to all of the meat, however, as this symbolizes a capsizing boat! Don’t worry about eating the whole fish either, as it is important to leave some leftovers to ensure plenty of abundance in the year ahead.
Similarly, it is considered good luck to remove all debts, pay all bills and start the year fresh. Conversely, it is thought to be bad luck to clean house as one may “sweep away” the good fortune that is their right. It is also unwise to wash one’s hair, cut it, or indeed, to use sharp instruments at all. As always, kindness is key. Never make a child cry over the New Year holiday!
The traditional time of celebration ends with a lighting of lanterns to welcome the coming Spring. In most cases, candles will also serve that purpose. Choose your vigils wisely and celebrate the good health and prosperity that is due to you in the coming year.