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Chinese New Year from the Sidelines

By Heidi Lewis

Play-by-play announcer, Joe, and his trusty color commentator, Bo, stand on the sidelines of Time.

Joe: “Well, Bo, here we are again—another spin of the zodiac. This is exciting! Children clutching bright red envelopes, piles of mandarins brightening up the place, and concussions of firecrackers sound like applause greeting the Year of the Serpent!”

Bo: “Indeed, the Chinese lunar new year begins with a new moon in Aquarius. It’s sure a colorful festival, Joe! Rife with traditions and symbolism. Many foods and objects carry great significance and blessings for luck in the new year.”

Joe: “Everything is so colorful!”

Bo: “Red is a particularly auspicious color, Joe. It adorns everything from envelopes with lucky money to lanterns, clothing, and decorations. And oranges—especially mandarins—are used as offerings. Their sweetness is symbolic of abundance and joy, and the bright orange color symbolizes prosperity. A gift of a mandarin with stem and leaves still attached is extra lucky.”

Joe: “What about other fruit, like apples?

Bo: “Well, Joe, when apples are given, they symbolize peace and wisdom—and bananas symbolize a wish for brilliance at work or school.”

Joe: “Chinese New Year’s eve is actually a quiet time for family, when folks come together for a reunion dinner. Those feasts are especially replete with symbolism. Shiitake mushrooms represent longevity and a reminder to seize opportunity. Green vegetables symbolize financial good fortune; and of course, when all veggies are mixed together, it’s metaphor for family harmony!”

Bo: “This is great stuff, Joe. It’s making me hungry!”

Joe: “Bo, do you have any predictions for the Year of the Serpent?”

Bo: “Well, wiser folks than I have that job, but it’s a good year to shed the old and make a change. So eat more fruit and veggies!”

Joe: “Did Vince Lombardi say that?”

Bo: “No—my mom.”

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