Year of the Golden Pig
Gung hay fat choy! As some of us enjoyed the long President’s Day weekend, others celebrated Chinese New Year on Feb. 18. This year of 4705 is especially significant because it is the year of the Golden Pig. The combination of a pig year and fire element year happens only every 60 (some say 600) years, signifying an extremely lucky and prosperous year. So there’s a second chance to start fresh and follow through with the already-forgotten New Year’s resolutions made a month ago with the celebration of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.
This particular Year of the Pig is considered such a prosperous one that Asian countries are expecting a baby boom as parents try to ensure a happy and wealthy life for their child. A baby born in the Year of a Pig is thought to be intelligent, sincere, honest, good-willed, hardworking and good luck for life. Since this Year of the Pig coincides with the fire element, the baby is said to be born under two lucky signs and be twice-blessed.
However, this can’t be good for every pig. Since China allows its citizens one child per household, thousands of Asian parents have timed their pregnancies for this lunar year. Additionally, thousands of couples are rushing to get married. Hospitals are anticipating as much as an 11 percent increase in births this year and the new baby boom is expected to overwhelm education, healthcare and labor systems. The baby boom in the year 2000, the Year of the Dragon, led to today’s enrollment problems. Some dragons cannot attend school.
People from all over the world gather together with their families and prepare for this extravagant Chinese holiday that, for some, lasts for days. In many cases, families travel to and from Asia to be with their loved ones for the occasion. It is believed that the appearance and attitude of New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year, so extra care is given to creating the finest celebration.
Chinese families usually take the days off before the New Year to get the customary arrangements, delicious foods, and ‘spring cleaning’ ready to rejoice for 15 days. Children help their parents clean and tidy their homes and ‘sweep the grounds’ to bring in the year with good luck and fortune.
Red is a favorite color during the festivities. It is considered a happy color, ensuring a bright future. Traditionally, doors and windowpanes are given a fresh coat of paint, usually red to ward off evils and bad luck. Decorations range from red banners with auspicious phrases (‘spring couplets’), assorted flowers and colorful fruits as expressions of good wishes, luck and fortuity. Floral decorations include peach or plum blossoms (symbolizing luck), kumquat plants (symbolizing prosperity) and chrysanthemums (symbolizing longevity).
All this elaborate preparation is in anticipation for the new year and spending the festivities with loved ones. Chinese New Year’s Eve is a time of joyful reunion, delicious Chinese delicacies and giving thanks. Everyone wears his or her newest clothing and is on his or her best behavior to symbolize starting anew. Families spend the celebration with all of their relatives, rejoicing over a lavish feast of seafood, chicken, dumplings, Buddha’s delight and more. Several of the foods are homophones for words that denote pleasant things and are eaten to usher in wealth, happiness and good fortune for the coming year.
Since this Chinese holiday stresses family ties more than any other, Chinese New Year’s Day is spent visiting extended family and friends. The exciting day welcomes many traditions, such as a religious ceremony to honor the deities of the heavens and earth, known as the gods of the household, and family ancestors. The most vital of all the rituals is the sacrifice to the ancestors, as they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family. The spirit of the past and present is celebrated as generations are honored and family unites as one great community. The children are particularly ecstatic about the lavish gifts and bow to their parents and elders in gratitude and respect. Traditionally, elder and married relatives give ‘lai see’ or ‘hong bao’ to the juniors