We never turn down the opportunity to celebrate a holiday at Good Earth Plant Company. So we are happy to wish you a Happy New Year, because Saturday, January 28, is the start of the Chinese or Lunar New Year 4715. It is celebrated by one-sixth of the world’s population. The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar.
The Chinese lunar calendar measures months the way most cultures did from the beginning of humanity, by following the cycles of the moon. The lunar calendar begins each month when the night sky is darkest, on the new moon. Each lunar month lasts 29.53 days. Twelve lunar months equal 354 days.
The solar calendar which is the one used by our more familiar Gregorian calendar lasts 365 days and a fraction (hence Leap Years). A strict lunar calendar ends up out of cycle with the solar year by about a month every three years. The Islamic calendar is a pure lunar calendar. It does not “add” months and so it syncs up with the solar calendar year every 33 years.
The Chinese, Hindi and Thai lunar years are actually “lunisolar” calendar years. These calendar systems add a month to synchronize with the solar calendar year. A thirteen month year takes place every two or three years.
The New Year starts with the first new moon of the lunisolar year, and ends with the full moon 15 days later. This year, Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, January 28.
Chinese culture believes human beings are a very small part of a very large universe. Every living creature from people down to the smallest plants is part of nature, and the intrinsic link between humans and nature cannot be broken. This is the basis of the modern study of biophilia, the connection between people and nature.
Chinese gardens are intended to imitate nature in the home, to conform to natural laws and systems without breaking our biophilic connection. Every part of the garden is designed to remind visitors of the harmony between humans and nature, with the goal of improving our personal character by taking inspiration from this harmony. You are supposed to become a better person by spending time outdoors in a garden. It makes sense to us!
Chinese gardens always include four design features: Mountains, water, coverings such as a bridge, and animals. These are not always literal. “Mountains” can be a high point in a garden, such as a hill.
No matter whether a garden is large or small, and no matter where it is located, traditional Chinese gardens represent the Chinese tradition of finding harmony within the world by turning to nature for answers.
The Chinese New Year has officially been called the “Spring Festival” since China adopted our western calendar in 1912. It is still the most important holiday in China, although the long-held traditions of honoring one’s ancestors and family ties has become a chance to take a break from work for many younger generation Chinese.
There are still many rituals practiced today and many have their origins in following the laws of nature. For example, homes are supposed to be cleaned from top to bottom to get rid of “huigi,” or “inauspicious breaths” which might have collected over the past year. The gods would come down from heaven and make inspections so no slacking off! But it does make sense if you look at a thorough spring-cleaning as a good way to remove molds, pests, dust and toxins and refresh stale indoor air.
There is a long list of things you are supposed to avoid doing on the first day of the Chinese New Year. So if you are reading this on Saturday, January 28, take note of this warning.
Don’t take any medicine, or you will get ill repeatedly for the whole year.
Don’t do any laundry Friday OR Saturday. These two days are celebrated as the birthday of the Chinese Water God and you are supposed to leave his domain (water) alone.
Don’t wash your hair on Saturday, or you will “wash away” your fortune to start the New Year and it will stick for the whole year.
Don’t use knives, scissors, or any sharp object. It is thought to damage your wealth. Don’t use a broom either, because you might “sweep away” your wealth.
Crying children are supposed to bring bad luck, so parents try to do their best to keep their children as happy as possible. I wonder if this applies to your kids if they are college age like mine! Don’t get any ideas, Ted and Allie.
Avoid being the victim of a pickpocket on New Year’s because it is supposed to predict the fate of your wealth being “stolen” from you this year.
Don’t lend anyone money on Saturday. If you owe anyone money, you need to pay up by then. If you need to give someone a gift, avoid giving anything sharp (like knives), no clocks or watches, and no pears. I don’t know the explanation for the pears, just that it’s considered unlucky.
Don’t wear clothing that has any stains, rips, or other damage on New Year’s Day. It can cause bad luck. Wear something new if you can. Good luck! But avoid wearing black or white. These colors are associated with mourning (as in funerals).
Blood is considered a bad omen. So try not to cut yourself or kill any living thing that bleeds. I try to follow this rule every day!
The Chinese Wishing Tree tradition is synonymous with good luck and fortune. Legends say if you write down and hang your hopes for the coming year on a Wishing Tree, it will encourage your dreams to come true. The original Wishing Tree is in Hong Kong, but you can create your own symbolic Wishing Tree using artificial branches, cream or pink colored flowers, and a few other items. Follow these instructions to begin your Chinese New year with good luck.
The plant associated with Chinese and Chinese New Year is something most people know as “Lucky Bamboo.” You see it sold everywhere this way, but it’s not really a bamboo plant at all. It’s Dracaena sanderiana, related to the common Dracaena houseplant, including the one usually called a Corn Plant.
Good Earth Plant Company loves these nature-based traditions. Chinese culture was way ahead of us on this. Now thanks to modern science, research has proven bringing any plants into the home or workplace is a health benefit. Start the new year with new plants and you are sure to improve your fortunes through improved health and wellbeing.
To all, Gung Hay Fat Choi!, which is Happy New Year in the Cantonese dialect.