The CNMI will join the rest of the world tomorrow, Jan. 25, to celebrate the most important event in the Chinese calendar, which is the Chinese New Year. This year, however, it is specifically called the Lunar New Year.
According to Chinese history, the difference between the Chinese New Year and the Lunar New Year is that the former is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, which means the new year is celebrated on the second moon following midwinter. The latter is based on the first new moon that occurs toward the end of winter and that is why this year’s celebration is happening in January instead of February.
Aside from being with family and friends, this is also a time when old Chinese traditions that are unique to the new year resurface. Some of these traditions include thorough cleaning of the house before welcoming the new year to remove bad luck, shopping for new clothes, wearing red, and putting luck-inducing calligraphies on doorways and windows, to name a few.
Fei Villagomez of Finasisu said that this is the time of the year where she and family cook a lot of food. “We cook many new year dishes on the 24th like there is no tomorrow. That includes beef, fish, chicken, duck and pork,” she said.
The next seven days starting Jan. 25 are also important days. “These are days that are spent going around to greet and be with family. We treat this time as a reunion because all throughout the year, families may be apart because of work and school,” she said. “This is a time where everyone goes home and reconnect with family and ancestors, no matter how far the travel may be. We also welcome friends to join us in our celebration because the new year signifies sharing, giving thanks and blessing everyone for the incoming year.”
Exchanging red envelopes filled with money is a staple Chinese tradition during the new year, according to Anna Liu from Gualo Rai. “We pass red envelopes to the younger generation and if you have a business, it is tradition that you put a big amount of money because we believe that the more blessings you give away, it would come back to you two-fold throughout the year and more business will come in,” she said.
On Jan. 25 itself, “our family gather together and even friends because we consider them close family members. Everyone tries very hard to travel to be reunited with family once again and aside from the happiness of seeing each other again, we just stuff ourselves with delicious new year dishes,” she added.
Rowan Kuang, sales manager of the Hyatt Regency Saipan, said that when you say new year in the Chinese tradition, family immediately comes to mind.
“The most important thing is family and, normally, we have dinner in big portions on a day before the new year and try to have the most expensive food. On the first year of the new year, I know people love to go to temples to see the Buddha to make a wish for the incoming year. Here on Saipan, people go to the Buddha on Banzai Cliff,” he said.
According to Xian Chen, who hails from Guandong China, Chinese new year traditions vary in different provinces in China. “The tradition in my province of Guandong is that the daughter who is already married cannot go to her mother’s house on the first day of the new year. Only the son can greet the mother ‘Gong Hei Fat Choi.’ But on the second day of the year, the married daughter can visit her mother to give money,” she said.