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Chinese New Year; an island tradition

by Kim P. Robson, staff writer


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 and compatibility.


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 good fortune).

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.



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