Today is Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse. The Chinese lunar year traditionally begins at sunset on the day of the second new moon following the winter solstice. Tomorrow begins the Chinese year 4699, a 15-day festival of happiness, peace, and fun.
To prepare for the New Year, the Chinese cut their hair, pay their debts, and buy new clothes. They clean their homes completely, "sweeping of the grounds" to remove any bad luck and make way for the incoming year of good luck, happiness, and wealth. Plum blossoms represent courage, hope, and long life. Gifts of oranges or tangerines symbolize health.
Colorful celebrations include street parades with dancing dragons, martial arts dancers, and fireworks to frighten away evil spirits and bad luck. Red, a color of joy, is the main color for clothes and decorations.
Children are given good luck money packets--lai see-- in special red envelopes. The envelopes are also often exchanged between families. Meat is not eaten today. Instead a vegetarian dish, jai or Buddha's Delight is served.
Chinese New Year is a time for family reunions and thanksgiving. The Chinese believe appearance and attitude today will set the tone for the rest of the year, so celebrate life and all its passionate colors!
Gung Hay Fat Choy! Wishing you prosperity!