That's All, Folks! 初 chü 三 sän ~初 chü 五 wŭ

That's All, Folks! 初 chü 三 sän ~初 chü 五 wŭ

Now that the daughters and sons-in-law also visited the families, the modern day Chinese New Year celebration also reaches the intermission.  I don't want to put 'the end' here, since there is a grand finale on the 15th, and also 'the end' is not 'auspicious' during the new year celebration.  Still the holiday is about to wrap up, let's take a look at the remaining days - before everyone goes back to work.

I'll do this by the coherent idiom for the day, so as to enrich the poor content.
初 chü 三 sän 睡 sùi 到 dào 饱 băo
After the New Year's Eve all night celebration, the first day of the New Year house calls around relatives and friends, and the second day returning to the parents (parents-in-law) for the treat, it is about time to get a break from all the running around.

This is the day you get to sleep in.  Our ancestors said that it was because the rats were having their weddings today, so in order not to disturb them, everyone in the house must keep quiet and keep the activity to the minimum in order to show respect.  Of course this is just a good excuse for not doing anything at all for the day and truly rejuvenated from the whole three days of hard working.  It also is a break to get ready for unfolding of a year's work.

Imagining that all people in the picture are rats. How interesting it can be!

初 chü 四 sì 接 jïe 神 shén
Oh, yes, they are back!  We send back to report what we did last year, and today is the day they come back for another year of observation and blessings (and otherwise, if you deserve it).  This is the day you would hear the long string of firecrackers blasting right from the first hour of the day.  After all, it's definitely a plus to show some earnest in receiving the gods home. 
Interesting enough is that this day is normally a rainy day.  The gods come down with the rain to bless the land.  Sounds quite biblical as well.
初 chü 五 wŭ 隔 gé 开 käi / 开 käi 工 göng
It took me years to finally understand the meaning of 隔 gé 开 käi, at first I thought it meant the separation between the married daughter and their parents.  Well, the true meaning is not too far off, this is the day the new year celebration is over and people return to their regular work posts.

That is why in the modern days, the day is addressed as开 käi 工 göng 日 rì- which is more plain to the sight that meaning is perceived without further elaboration.
All right.  So this is it.  We are off for another year's of hard labor.  May you enjoy the fruit of your work.  恭 göng 喜 xĭ 发 fä 财 cái!!



Water Out Of The Bucket Gets A Home Coming Feast 初chü 二èr:回húi 娘níang 家jïa

Water Out Of The Bucket Gets A Home Coming Feast
初chü 二èr:回húi 娘níang 家jïa

When a daughter gets married, she will be someone else's daughter.  She will have someone else's last name, and she will bear someone else's heir and attend to someone else's ancestors.  The Chinese say a married daughter is like the water that is thrown out of the bucket; and like the water that is out of the bucket, she will never be taken back*.

Luckily, we are in the 21st century!!
Even our ancestors were not at all that cruel.  They actually reserved two days for the married daughters to come home for visit.  In the ancient time, lunar January 11th was for the son-in-law to visit, and 12th was for the daughter to come home for a visit (as a guest).  There was no actual recording why it became the 2nd of January,  though it was believed that due to the change of social structure - which was from agriculture to industrial - the lunar holidays were shortened down to 5 days, and thus the home coming of the married daughters was moved forward to the 2nd of January.  Lunar January 2nd also happens to be the birthday of the earth gods, which is itself a day for feast.  Since the food is there, everybody is happy.  This day we call it 回 húi 娘 níang 家 jïa: 回 húi means to return, 娘 níang is the older and formal term for mother but here refers to the daughter, and 家 jïa is house/home. 

Basically, that is it.
As I am writing this, I realize that the lunar new year celebration actually is not that colorful and mysterious as we (Chinese) would like to think or describe.  Now the stores practically open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; and that traveling to another city or town may take about 10 minutes or so on a high speed transportation system, the festivity of lunar new year becomes less cheering or expected.  I am sure it won't be long that the lunar new year becomes something like a winter break or summer break for the working class, and what is left is the commercial oriented festivity. 
One day, the real spirit of the Chinese New Year would be like the water in the bucket - it is only a matter of time we throw it out of the window.
Before that, let us try to enjoy it as much as we can!
*The phrase is 嫁 jìa 出 chü 去 qù 的 dè 女 nú 儿 ér 泼 pö 出 chü 去 qù 的 dè 水 shŭi
出 chü 去 qù : 出 chü means out, 去 qù means go, 出 chü 去 qù means go out or get out
的 dè is a character for possessive case, such as my, 我 wŏ 的 dè ( I = 我 wŏ)
嫁 jìa: marry to, this is for 'to marry into'.  Normally it refers to woman who marries into another family and becomes the daughter (daughter-in-law) of that family.  However, when a man marries into another family and become the son of the family (assuming the family's last name), we also use 嫁 jìa - but of course not to the man's face….
女 nú 儿 ér: 女 nú means female, 儿 ér is son, 女 nú 儿 ér, a female son, a daughter.
水vshŭi: water
泼vpö: the left part of the character is 水 shŭi, water; and the right is 发 fä, to distribute.  The character 泼 pö means to throw water or to splash the water. 

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Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!! --守shǒu歲sùi

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!! --守shǒu歲sùi

Yes, I admit that the title is not very 'auspicious' to the festivity of Chinese New Year.  However, since we have all been in the turmoil of this chaotic year of global financial downcast, almost back to back natural catastrophe around the world, fallen pop and movie stars, disappointing latest product features, et al; I am sure almost all people around the world are looking forward to a brighter new year.  So, let's ding dong away to the bottom half of the New Year's Eve activity.
We're almost there, I promise.
Now the fish is 'half full' on the New Year's Eve dinner table, wine is tasted as a token for a long lasting happiness, it's time for the younger generations to pay respect to the elders, and wish them a long lasting life and a happy new year.   The older custom is that the eldest family members of the family, grand parents or great grand parents, to sit on the chairs next to the shrine for the ancestors.  The younger generations: sons and daughters in-law and their children (the grand children), the daughters (not married) to line up in front of the elders to wish them happy new year either by bowing down or by kneeling down and bow down to the ground.  The elders then distribute money or candies in the red envelope, to bless the younger generations either with fortune or good marriage (of course it is always the best to put money in the red envelope since, to be honest, we do love money more than candies).  We call This money or candies in the red envelope 红hóng包bäo: 红hóng is for the color red, and 包bäo here refers to the packet - the envelope in this scenario.  The children then pay respect to their parents, but there is no need to bow down or kneeling down, since those gestures are reserved for the eldest family members.  The parents also distribute红hóng包bäo to the children.  Although the money inside红hóng包bäo is not necessarily much, it is a symbol of blessings from the parents and the elders in the family, as well as a symbol of family wealth, showing that they have enough to give.
After paying respect to everyone in the family, most Chinese families will play 麻máh将jòng while waiting for the new year to come.  With all the games and movies on DVD/Blue Ray available nowadays, we an observe a family of at least three generations being clustered by the games of their cohere age: grand parents playing麻máh将jòng, moms and dads either join grand parents on the麻máh将jòng table or watch movies on DVD, while the kids either play Wii, PSP, X-box or online games on PCs or laptops.  All these activities will continue even after midnight.  This is守shǒu岁sùi岁sùi is normally a term to describe age, for example 10 years old is described as 10 (shí) 岁sùi.  In other words, 岁sùi refers to a year (a cycle).  To 守shǒu岁sùi means to 'keep the year', as 守shǒu refers to 'keep' or 'guard'.  You would wonder why we want to "keep the year" since we've been going through so much (painstaking) detail to 'ding dong' away the current year.  Well, it actually is a symbol of keeping/guarding to ensure a safe transition between the old and the new year.  To make sure that everyone makes it to another year.

The final call is coming and the clock finally strikes 12!!
One of the key offering items that are now on the shrine table is the firecracker.  Yes, the Disney version of the world destructing invention of our ancestors.  This is not the small and loud 'one ping only' type of firecracker.  It is a long string of many small 'one ping only' things that will keep 'ping-ing' for as long as it takes.  We light up the long string of firecracker, using the loud 'auspicious' sound and flashes to get rid of the old and to welcome the new.  Make sure there is no stopping of the firecracker, as it is considered a bad omen, which predicts the misfortune of the family.  When the firecrackers pays its tribute to the New Year, remember to gather all the ashes with a broomstick, sweep it inwards into the house on a dustpan.  The firecracker ashes are regarded as fortune, and of course you don't leave the fortune on the ground outside of yours house.  You scoop them in and keep them for the year to come (the fortune, not the ashes, you can put the ashes into the trash can after you scoop them in).

Now can we all go to bed?  Sorry, no.  It would be better if you can stay up all night, if not, for as late as possible.  So gather your energy while trying to stay up all night.  For it is the New Year, and we have other things to do on the 1st day of the New Year!!
Some may notice that when I mention the family member, I put a bracket behind the daughters, specifying not married.  Well, the married daughters are with the family they are married into, playing the 'daughters- in-law' part with the sons.  They will come home, as one of the days in New Year celebration is reserved especially for the married daughters.  We'll talk about it when it comes.
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