Gong Xi Fa Cai — Happy New Year!

Red lanterns for Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese (or Lunar) New Year!

This year, the first day of Chinese New Year was on Saturday, Jan. 25. The first day corresponds with the new moon using the lunisolar Chinese calendar. Based on the Chinese zodiac, it’s now the Year of the Rat.

“Gong Xi Fa Cai” and “Gong Hey Fat Choy” do not translate to “Happy New Year” as some people may think. The loose translation in Mandarin is “wishing you prosperity in the coming year,” while the Cantonese translation is “wishing you happiness and prosperity.” Some people substitute prosperity for wealth, so it can mean “wishing you to make lots of money.”

There are many traditions associated with Chinese New Year. On the night before, individuals who celebrate the Chinese New Year gather for the annual reunion dinner. The reunion dinner is regarded as the most important meal of the year. Traditional foods are served during the reunion dinner, such as longevity noodles to symbolize the wish for a long life, oranges because they are round and have a “golden” color, to symbolize fullness and wealth and other festive snacks.

It is also traditional to clean houses to “sweep” away any ill-fortune and bring in good luck before the new year. This is followed by the use of firecrackers to ward away the evil spirits. However, brooms need to be put away on New Year’s Day to prevent “sweeping” away the good luck that comes to you and your house.

On Chinese New Year, members of the family who are married or elderly give red envelopes (hongbao/lai see) to the younger members of the family. The red color symbolizes good luck. The red envelopes typically contain new cash notes in an even number. The number 8 is considered a lucky number because it sounds like wealth/prosperity (ba/baat). A person should avoid opening the envelopes in front of the relatives. It is also traditional for supervisors or business owners to give red envelopes to their employees as a token of good fortune for the year.

“Gong Xi Fa Cai” or “Gong Hey Fat Choy” to all members of the NC State community!

Selby Rempfer is an equal opportunity officer in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.