Lunar New Year in Taiwan is always the biggest time of the year for family and friends to get together. Kids love it the best because they get Red Envelops that the parents generation and older would prepare for them. Envelops in red color means good lucks and the money in it is originally meant to help kids grow up without problems such as dying half of the way due to illnesses. In the old time, natural environment was harsh, economic condition was in a bad shape and medical supports were often insufficient. It was challenging for kids to grow into adulthood because they could get very ill and die easily. So Red Envelops money became an aid to them as long as medical supports were available. Since adults were expected to have taken on jobs and would therefore be making money, they were expected to be responsible to supply and give Red Envelops to children. However today, not all the families keep this tradition. Some families feel that may be too big a burden for some adults that are making too little, so the adults may not have to give Red Envelops in families like this.
For the adults, they love the foods because the foods are always tasty. But they also hate the foods because it gains them a few kilograms (a few kilograms mean several pounds). So usually after the Lunar New Year feasts, they would say, I have to lose some weight; or I am going to be on a diet. But of course, they do not always mean it, and that is the fun part around and after the foods sweep time.
Legend behind Taiwanese Lunar New Year
There is a legend behind Taiwanese Lunar New Year. It is said a beast, named Nian, big and ugly, would come and disturb households and families to hurt people. So people would have to do something. One thing they would do is setting off firecrackers because Nian fears the sound of it and the fire it creates. So in the morning, people would get up early to set up the firecrackers, let off, Nian would flee, then people would be safe and have peace throughout the day. Then they would begin preparing foods and ingredients for the big dinner feast in the evening. One thing they would make is Nian Cake (sticky rice cake). The cake sounds named after the Nian beast, but mainly it is because they would need to replenish the energy after fighting the beast. They would also celebrate the victory over scaring the beast away. The cake must be sticky to mean sticking family together for the rest of the year. Also, the cake must be in round shape–though today in modern times, you would see the shape gets creative–but round shape signifies family gets along with one other, no sharp angles against one another. The dining table for the dinner feast also must be in round shape and it is for the same reason like it is for the Nian Cake. In the end of the day, firecrackers would be set off again to celebrate that they have finally made it safely and peacefully throughout the day. It also is to make sure the Nian beast is being scared off far, far away and will not return throughout the rest of the year until the next year. So by midnight, firecrackers would go off again for a display of the victory.
In the modern times
In the modern times, families and friends use this time as an opportunity to see one another, catch up with one another and give greetings and blessings to one another. When they see one another, they would lift their arms, put their both hands together, hold their fingers down forming a fist with one hand covering on top of the other hand, then move their fist-like hands back and forth and say “Congrats! Congrats! Happy New Year! May you prosper and be rich this year!” Kids would be running around, playing with one another in the house or in the yards. Parents, relatives and grandparents would be sitting tight gathering around in the house and helping out in the kitchen serving snacks and preparing foods for the dinner feast of the day. Or for the families that think it is too much work and takes too much time to prepare for the dinner feast, they would choose to go out into restaurants and enjoy their feast there as an alternative.
Since the Lunar New Year is all about greetings and blessings, mainly prosper in wealth, in multiplying households and in academic performance, words like “wish you having many children”, “may you excel in school” appear in conversations, on Red Envelops or on Spring Posters. The Spring Posters usually come in two styles. One style composes a short poem with three sentences; one sentence, one poster. This style of Posters are glued to the walls by the entrance, two on either side and one on top. The other style composes one short poetic sentence or phrase. This style of Posters are often glued outside to the door. No matter in which style, Posters must be in red color and are meant to wish others good life, good health and big fortune.
Also, Taiwanese have the Lunar New Year because they used to use a different calendar system back in the time when the society was a mere agricultural society. Farmers figured observing the changes of the sun, moon and stars helped them figure when the rain, flood, drought, hot and cold days come. Not until they were introduced with the Western calendar, which is in the formats of A.D. and B.C., had they been using the Lunar calendar. Though the Western calendar system has been used in a long time, the Lunar New Year has been significantly kept as a tradition. After all, family needs a tradition to hold them together and the Lunar New Year is one of the best to keep for all of its merit times and financial aids.
Thanks to Facebook friends for their contributions of the photos.