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Cock-a-doodle-do: how do you say that in Chinese?

Chinese New Year
Cock-a-doodle-do: how do you say that in Chinese?

A little guide to celebrating the Chinese New Year

It may sing “cock-a-doodle-do” in English, “cocorico” in French or “kukareku” in Russian, but the rooster expresses itself very differently in Chinese: “ge ge ge (咯咯咯).” This January 28, the first day of the second moon (the new moon) of the winter solstice, marks the start of the year of the rooster!

These days everyone’s getting ready to welcome it. Cleaning house to make sure evil spirits don’t disrupt the celebration. Decorating the home with everything that might bring happiness: auspicious Chinese characters painted on a red background, images of chubby babies (for abundance) or fish (longevity), or else replicas of gold ingots (a sign of prosperity). The festivities surrounding the New Year testify to the Chinese attachment to the lunar calendar and to the traditions connected with it.

With the New Year there’s also a need to make sure that the Kitchen God (灶王爷), who protects the home, will make a positive report of the past year’s activities to the Jade Emperor. To sweeten his words, some people will go so far as to coat his mouth with honey !

A divine banquet

On New Year’s eve, families gather together. They make sure to keep a chair empty for those who can’t make it. The elderly hand out red envelopes containing coins to the youngest ones. Fruit and New Year’s cakes adorn the ancestor altar, while the table sags under the weight of a copious banquet laden with symbols:

  • dumplings handcrafted at home (prosperity),
  • fish (superabundance and perseverance),
  • lotus shoots (family reunion),
  • oysters (fortune),
  • chicken (affluence, good fortune, happiness),
  • noodles (longevity),
  • round or fried foods (union or wealth).

After the meal, people stay up until the early hours. A game of mahjong, alcohol and firecrackers scare away evil spirits, who are afraid of red, light and noise.

Fifteen days of celebrations

In the morning, the whole family heads to the temple to honor the gods. The first days of the year are rich in superstitions: it is forbidden to swear, to talk of death or to sweep dirt out over the threshold, for fear of clearing the good spirits away.

According to tradition, even mice are allowed to celebrate on the third day, so that they leave us alone after that…

The “Day of Men” is celebrated on the seventh day of the year. On that day, everyone turns a year older.

On the fifteenth day, the Lantern Festival brings New Year festivities to a close. For one last time before family members go their separate ways, the powerful links binding them together are celebrated.

Now you’re ready to take full advantage of a year very much like the rooster itself: flamboyant, diligent, punctual, insightful and warm…

新年好! Happy New Year !

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