Lunar New Year is a time for families to come together and celebrate the start of a new year. Following the lunar calendar, the holiday usually falls around January or February. The Lunar New Year 2023 holiday is from Jan. 20 to Jan. 29. This holiday is celebrated in Taiwan, China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia and other countries worldwide. For me, this holiday holds a special significance as it is a time for my family to reunite in my grandfather’s fishing village in Kouhu, Yunlin, Taiwan.
As soon as the air turns salty, I know I’ve arrived. The village is surrounded by fish farms that mainly raise milkfish, white shrimp, meretrix and Taiwanese sea bream. During our stay, a big seafood feast is always a holiday highlight. My grandfather’s house is simple and rustic, with no WiFi or internet signal. My siblings and I have to find other ways to entertain ourselves. We always look forward to visiting our neighbors to make tea, picking up vegetables from the backyard and preparing dinner, which is called Tuán Yuán Fàn. These small activities bring us back to my parents’ childhood and the simplicity of life in the village.
Over the years, the traditions of Lunar New Year have been passed down by ancestors. We use a whole chicken, pork and whole fish to worship God in heaven, God of the house and ancestors. Besides worship, we paste Spring Festival Couplets (chun lián) on walls and doors to express our delight in the festival and wishes for a better life in the coming year. My favorite part of Lunar New Year’s Eve (chú xì) is giving red envelopes, known as lucky money (ya sueì chián). I still remember the first time I could give out lucky money after I started working. It was a proud moment for me, and I will never forget the look of happiness on my grandfather’s face when I handed him the red envelope.
A new year begins when the firecracker’s sound goes off at midnight. People usually visit temples and friends on the first day of the year (chu yi). We call this action zoǔ chun, which means “give New Year’s greetings.” On the second day (chu’ èr), my six aunts usually come back to visit. Traditionally, chu’ èr is the only date married daughters can go home. Otherwise, they will bring bad luck to the family. Since my father is the only son in his generation, my family is responsible for preparing a meal for my aunts’ family. In leisure time, while most families play the board game mahjong, we like to sit by my grandfather and hear his life stories.
My family’s way of ending the holiday is by worshiping God at the Hsing-Tian Temple in Taipei. We always eat pork blood cake next to the temple after worship. During the celebration, people burn ghost money and incense sticks as an offering to the gods and ancestors. However, with the increased environmental awareness, people have started to reduce the amount of ghost money and incense sticks they use. Some temples even ban their use. Hsing-Tian Temple is one of them.
Lunar New Year holds a special significance for me as it is a time for my family to come together and reconnect with our roots and heritage. I am writing this blog to remember my grandfather, who passed away in 2020. My grandfather’s house in the village reminds us of where we come from and the importance of preserving tradition and culture in the face of modernization. We may not celebrate the holiday the same way as before because of the change in lifestyle and growing sense of environmental awareness. Still, the memories of these holidays will always hold a special place in my heart.