Published Thursday, February 07, 2013

'Gung hay fat choy,' y'all

By MARIANNE THOMASSON

marianne@newnan.com

“Gung hay fat choy” isn’t a new dance.

It’s an old greeting in Chinese that means “May you prosper.”

That’s what Chinese people say instead of “happy new year.” The Chinese new year celebration will begin Sunday.

In anticipation of the holiday, youngsters in Senoia crafted snakes and noisemakers while they learned about the new year’s customs of the Chinese at the Senoia Library Saturday. Some of their customs are parallel to the ones in the American South.

While we eat pork for good luck, the Chinese have a whole fresh chicken for good fortune.

We don’t do laundry on New Year’s Day because the superstition is that, if we do, we’ll do laundry every day in the coming year. The Chinese prepare their New Year’s feast prior to their New Year’s Day because they believe work will be harder throughout the year if they do.

Other customs observed by the Chinese include:

Using a broom to sweep away the old, symbolizing the readiness for new things the year will bring.

Putting away knives so their luck won’t be cut.

Never getting a haircut on New Year’s because the Chinese word for hair sounds like the word for prosperity and they don’t want to cut their prosperity.

Including flowers and plants in the celebration symbolizing rebirth because, without flowers, plants cannot make seeds and fruit.

Including oranges in the celebration because the Chinese word for orange is similar to the word for gold and it is believed oranges will bring good fortune.

Putting money into red envelopes and given to children during the holiday. Red is the color of happiness.

Eating ginko nuts as an expression of family unity.

Honoring ancestors, both living and dead. The dead can be honored by such things as cleaning grave headstones.

Cutting up cooked chicken and duck and reassembling the pieces on the serving platter (including feet and heads) to symbolize completeness and family unity.

Participating in lavish parades. The most notable one in the U.S. is in China Town in San Francisco where a dancing dragon and lion dancer are accompanied with firecrackers.

After the children made their snakes and noisemakers Saturday, the Senoia Library family craft day ended with snacks of fortune cookies and cookies made with coconut milk, a staple of the Chinese culture.

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