Celebrating Chinese New Year

I was not really enthusiastic about celebrating Chinese New Year in the classroom this year.  Other than making red envelopes, it just seems like all other activities we traditionally do (writing calligraphy to put on doors, making 發糕, hanging laterns) are “traditional” and yet almost peripheral in how CNY is celebrated, props for the main event. I really wanted to experience the “festivities” part of CNY again like I did last year in Taiwan.  So I took the kids down to LA.  Thursday was CNY.   Tuesday afternoon, we went to my mom’s temple and the kids got red envelopes from the monks.  None of us expected it so it was a very happy surprise.  Thumper was super enthusiastic about how much money she received.  She got really really good at saying her Happy Chinese New Years in Chinese, learned how to use two hands to receive her red envelope, how not to open it up on the spot or talk about it in a loud voice.  She couldn’t wait though and asked to hide under a table to count her money. The main displayWednesday night, we went to Xi Lai Temple because my mom said it gets really crowded on CNY.   I think it’s one of the largest temple on the West Cost.   That night, we looked at all the displays they had out on the courtyard, and read about the theme of the display: “三陽和諧”  It’s apparently a slight change from the traditional saying of “三陽開泰” because the theme is harmony.  I got to explain to Thumper why we have sayings that use the zodiac names(陽 and 羊 are pronounced the same and we’re in the year of the Goat 羊 this year).  We spent some time looking at all the different Buddhhas and various Taoist statues. IMG_4913 On New Years day, we started the day at mom’s temple to watch all the people come by to light incense, praying for a good year.  Then we headed out to Xi Lai temple.  By the time we got there at 11am, the temporary parking space they were using, which was a high school field, was already almost full.  We waited 45 minutes for a bus to take us up to the temple itself.   Since we were late due to the long bus line, we missed the dragon dance.  But the kids got to see performances from local high schools, the dance groups from the temple, and most amazingly, 財神 (God of Wealth) and 福祿壽星 (Gods of Properity, Status, Longevity) did a little parade in all their traditional custom, the little umbrellas, maidens, etc.  They’d never seen it before.  All these little cultural things I had to explain to both kids.  The maidens passed out fortune cookies out of their large gold nuggets afterward. IMG_4914Last week, we just read from Sage books’ idioms book the idiom “人山人海” and I told Thumper, “This is what it means when we say that.”  We were watching the performance from upstairs and you can totally see just how many people there were.  News reports estimated 80,000 that day!  After the performance, we walked around the temple.  There were lots of little trinkets being sold for good fortune.  One interesting one was a huge fake tree with little ribbons that you can buy and throw on.  The ribbons have different good wishes you can choose and buy.  It took us over an hour to wait for the bus to go home. I’m really glad I could give the kids a chance to see CNY in action this year as it’s practiced, rather than as it’s performed.  I felt like we really lived it.  Next year, I’m going to plan it so we get to go visit during the lantern festival (15th) and maybe get the kids to actually do a big cleaning in preparation for CNY.

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