Sunday, February 14, 2010

Enter the Tiger

Magnet # 168:  Chinatown Dragon

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

 Today kicks off the most important traditional holiday in the Chinese calendar, a festival which will last for 15 days.  In China and much of Asia, they're celebrating the Lunar New Year, more commonly known as Chinese New Year.   According to the Chinese Zodiac, this is the Year of the Tiger.  If you were born in 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962 and so on in 12 year increments, you're considered to be a tiger, and are said to have such traits as courage, unpredictability, and competitiveness.

The legend surrounding Chinese New Year holds that a great beast known as the Nian that emerged around the New Year and devoured crops, livestock, and villagers - even children.  Eventually, they began setting out food to appease the monster.  And when it cowered away from a child clad in red, they began wearing the color red, and decorating with red lanterns and scrolls.  They also began setting off firecrackers to frighten the Nian, and performing the Chinese Lion Dance.  All of these traditions are still continued in modern festivities, and the Nian is said to have run away forever.  Newer traditions have also been added to Chinese New Year's celebrations.  People travel from all over the world to be reunited with their families in China at this time and stay up late after their arrival, discussing previous gatherings.  Red envelopes and packages are exchanged, and they often include money in even numbers, often eight dollars, and sometimes gold chocolate coins.  These are usually given by older family members to their juniors.  Households may exchange gifts of food with one another, and fish is served in many a home.  This may be an ancient tradition, but it has evolved over the years and is of great importance in modern day China and all over the world.

If you can't make it to Asia to celebrate this holiday, then San Francisco's Chinatown is the best option in the Americas.  It dates back all the way to the 1840s and is both the biggest and oldest Chinatown in North America. It's a major tourist destination and I actually went there with my folks on our trip to California years ago.  I don't remember much about it, just wandering around, but I think we had a meal there.  My parents have both been back there since and have gotten me souvenirs such as chopsticks, chopstick rests, and, of course, this magnet.  Every year, they hold their annual Chinese New Year Parade, which has been held for over a century.  It's the largest illuminated nighttime parade on the continent.  There are other Chinatowns all around the United States that are also perfect areas to celebrate Chinese New Year.  As for me, I've enjoyed some traditional Chinese foods here in Savannah to celebrate.  We went by Wang's II, a Chinese restaurant that I had never tried before, and had a few tasty dishes like Sesame Chicken, Ginger Duck, and Crispy Fish, which everyone liked best.  I think the dish was a speciality of that particular restaurant, and it was truly crunchy flounder in a delicious sauce.  I asked our sever, who was from Asia, if Wang's II was doing anything special to celebrate and she said they had a big party for their employees last night.  Apparently, the eve of Chinese New Year is a pretty big deal.  That means this particular festival really lasts for 16 days, which is over two weeks.  That must make it one of the longest running major holidays of any nation.  So if you've missed out on the festivities today, there's still plenty of time left to make up for it.  Over the next couple weeks, try some Chinese food, or perhaps stop by a local Chinatown if you're lucky enough to have one close by.  This festival has been going on for thousands of years and if you haven't joined in yet, this is your chance!

No comments:

Post a Comment