When you think of Chinese New Year, what comes to mind?  Lion Dances, Mooncake, Fireworks, Chinatown... Whatever the case, Chinese New Year, or Kung Hee Fat Choy is widely celebrated in Hawaii.  This year was no different, as there were quite a few celebrations going on around town, even though the actual Chinese New Year is February 12.  It will be the year of the Horse this year, and it is Year 4699 by Chinese calendar.

Last weekend we went to Chinatown.  They sectioned off the major streets in Chinatown and put together a festival like bazaar.  Shishkabobs were plentiful, and each of the local style booths were very interesting.  A Chinatown parade complete with Lion Dances and fireworks passed thru Chinatown as onlookers lined up to take in some of the culture.  Everyone was dressed up  having a great time.  It's a great tourist attraction too, as I spotted just as many 'obviously mainland' folk enjoying every minute of their Chinatown Experience.

I just got back from watching another Lion Dance at the Royal Hawaiian.  The boys did a fine job bringing the Lion to life.  The firecrackers were very loud and made my ears ring, but I guess that's what their purpose is.

Here is a little history on Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

There are 12 animals that are symbols for the Chinese.  It is believed that if you are born in the year of one of these animals, you will take on it's attributes.  There may be some truth to this belief, as my sign is the Boar.  Here are the different animals represented.  Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.  Which one are you?

Red is a very important color for the Chinese.  Have you ever received one of the pretty red packets which contain money? It is tradition that married couples give unmarried adults and children these packets each new year to increase their Health, Wealth, Happiness and Longevity.  Chinese also post red paper with gold calligraphy on their properties, to achieve the same thing.  The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns, which is a celebration with singing, dancing and lantern shows.

Traditional foods eaten during Chinese New Year?  Well, there's Moon Cake, Gao (a sweet mochi like substance), Jai (monks food containing no meat, just roots), and Gin Dui (a deep fried sweet pastry with char sui meat inside).  Being the year of the Boar, the food is my favorite part.

That's a quick rundown on Chinese New Year.  Enjoy all the festivities this year and don't forget the feed the Lion when they dance over to you!

Pics from Chinatown: