Chinese New Year in Hawai’i is filled with excitement and energy,
for this is when two/ thirds of the island’s people who are
not European celebrate this island tradition. The Chinese celebrate
New Year on the first day of the new moon after the winter solstice,
sometime between Jan 19 and Feb 20.
About a week before Chinese New Year, Honolulu’s Chinatown
begins preparation to welcome the New Year with a parade, lion
dances, fireworks, vendors selling all types of delectable and
symbolic foods, and the appearance of the narcissus queen. Sui
Sin Fah (the narcissus flower) has long been prized in Hawai’i,
and this flower is cultivated as a charming part of the Chinese
New Year tradition. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth
and high positions in one’s career. Many shops in Chinatown
carry these flowers as well as bamboo which represent long life
Families are busy cleaning their houses and merchants their
shops hoping to sweep away bad luck and to make way for positive
changes in health, business, relationships, and love. Homes
are decorated with writings with positive messages such as,
“May you enjoy continuous good health,” and “May your home be
blessed with prosperity.” Sometimes families decorate their
homes with platters of oranges, tangerines, and a candy tray
with eight varieties of dried sweet fruit.
On New Years, families and friends gather together to eat Jai
(monk’s food), made of lotus roots, dried bean curd, seaweed,
tofu, long rice, Chinese cabbage, peas, black mushrooms, and
fungus. This dish is eaten to honor Buddha and symbolizes longevity.
Other foods include a whole fish to represent togetherness and
abundance and a chicken for prosperity. Steamed cakes are also
very popular, as well as tangerines and oranges which are passed
out freely. Parents give their children presents of cash wrapped
up in red paper package called (lycee).
On New Year’s Day people line the streets of Chinatown as students
from the local Chinese clubs maneuver in the gong, drums, and
lion in and out of the narrow alleys. The lion, a symbol of
strength, life, virility, and luck, blesses the merchants, and
they feed it lycee (a red envelope containing money which symbolizes
Merchants also detonate strings of firecrackers in the front
of their shops to ward of negative energy and bring luck to
their businesses. Shooting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve
is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming
in the New Year.
This is a special time to wish peace and happiness for family
members and friends.
Gung Hee Fat Choy!
For more Chinese New Year, see page 10 and 11.