Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

Fireworks, parades and music traditionally signal the arrival of the Chinese New Year. But traditions related to money permeate the New Year rituals and celebrations.

According to, “the most popular greeting is Gong Xi Fa Chai (pronounced 'Gong Hay Fat Choy'), which means ‘congratulations and make a fortune.’ ‘Make a fortune’ is to wish people rich, because Chinese love to talk about money.”

One tradition is to give a Red Envelope containing brand-new money to children. It is believed that children who sleep with the Red Envelopes under their pillows will sleep well – no bad dreams – and will become richer next year.

There are many activities that you are advised to avoid on Chinese New Year’s Day because of money-related superstitions. For example:

• If you sweep the floor or dump the trash, it will take away the wealth and luck from the house.
• If you take a nap at noon, you will be lazy year long.
• If you wash your hair you will wash your good luck away.
• If someone owes you money, do not ask for the money back on this day. Otherwise, you will do it often in the rest of the year.
• If you let people take anything away from your pocket or purse, you will lose money during the year.

Well, we need to do everything we can to increase our chances of better fortune. And fortunately, this is the year of the ox in the Chinese calendar. Here’s how one website describes the attributes of Ox people:

"The Ox, or the Buffalo sign symbolizes prosperity through fortitude and hard work…Invariably solid and dependable, Ox people are excellent organizers…systematic in their approach to every task they undertake. People born under the sign of the Ox usually have strong codes and work ethics…Ox people are usually strong and robust, and according to ancient wisdom, they should be blessed with long lives."

Sound familiar? President Barack Obama, born in 1961, is an Ox person. He may be just what we need to lead us to prosperity in these uncertain times.

If you want to share Chinese New Year’s greetings with far-flung friends and family, stop by, where they have a wide selection of Chinese New Year e-cards.

Check out this sample, with my best wishes to everyone for a happy and prosperous year of the ox.

Update: Last night we ordered takeout from our favorite local Chinese restaurant, Bamboo Gourmet Cuisine and Sushi Bar (Bedford, MA). Attached to the bag containing our dinner was a plastic bag containing a red envelope. Inside the envelope was a note welcoming in the Year of the Ox. The note described the custom of giving out money in red envelopes as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. To our surprise, the note ended with these words: “…in appreciation for your patronage, please accept this gift and blessing for the New Year” - and included a brand-new dollar. I feel more fortunate already!

This is a scan of the red envelope.

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