It is the Year of Monkey! Kong Hei Fa Cai!
Chinese Lunar New Year, also called Spring Festival or interchangeably called Guo Nican (New Year’s Celebration), is the single most important holiday in China, a week-long official holiday. It is also the most important celebration for families and it a time of thanksgiving and for honoring relationships at all levels of society.
Traditionally, preparation for the Chinese New Year celebration starts as early as December 24th (on the Chinese lunar calendar), and lasts until January 15th, when the “Festival of the Lanterns” brings the festivities to a close.
New Year’s Eve, called "Chu Xi", is the day that families unite to celebrate with a big feast, called "Tuan Nian Fan", meaning "reunion dinner", featuring dumplings and must-have fish, among other traditional dishes as a celebration of abundance. After dinner, families spend the night together, called "Shou Shui", and very importantly, launch firecrackers at midnight to welcome the New Year as well as to drive away evil. In modern cities, there is usually a designated area for people to set up firecrackers and small fireworks.
The most important tradition on New Year’s Day is Bai Nian, which the children pay respect to the elders and the elders give children and teenagers Hong Bao (red envelopes) filled with money. It also is a way to honor each other, with families and friends coming together in joyful gatherings to wish each other good fortune and a prosperous new year. Nowadays, people greet each other via text message more than any other form of greeting. It is said that during the one week of Spring Festival 2014, there were more than 182 billion Bai Nian messages sent!
Gifts are an important part of the festival tradition, similar to a Christmas gift exchange. Companies and organizations also give money and gifts to employees to thank them for all their hard work throughout the past year. Tea is usually a nice gift, and good tea is always served during the gatherings of family and friends. Of course, tea lovers usually have gongfu tea or a simplified tea ceremony during the family and friends gatherings. In my home province of Sichuan, a fine Jasmine tea is usually served for the celebration, especially in the tea house. In the modern days, any high quality tea, or a rare tea, either a gem green tea, premium oolong tea, or well aged puerh tea, is good for the gatherings or self-indulgence. If someone doesn’t drink alcohol or wine, tea is usually substituted for the midnight toast and at the dinner table as well.
This year, Chinese New Year lands on the western calendar date of February 8th, 2016. This is our very first year of celebrating this Chinese tradition as we launched just last year. We are a very young company, but carry the old traditions at heart. Authenticity and cultural heritage are core elements of our business.
I remember when I was a little girl, what I was looking forward to the most was not having to do homework for the first three days of the new year as well as wearing pretty new clothes. Of course, now I don’t normally wear new clothes anymore and don’t have three days off from any work, but I do plan to reward myself with a precious Wuyi rock oolong tea called Lao Chong Shui Xian (Old Bush Narcissus), that I purchased during my tea trip to Wuyi Mountains in October 2015. The intense fragrance enlivens my mind and the buttery roasted almond undertone and lingering sweet aftertaste stirs my imagination. I save this one for special occasions and it will serve as the “champagne” for my Chinese New Year’s Eve toast. :-)
Here is to a lucky and prosperous New Year 2016, Happy the Year of Monkey!