Saturday, February 24, 2007

Today is day 7 of the Chinese New Years festival. Eight more days to go until the Lantern Festival on the 15th night. So Molly spins her tiny little feline legs to catch up. On day 4 of the cycle people begin to prepare food for the return of the Kitchen God from the court of the Jade Emperor. This means the end of the period of freedom from the surveillance of the deities, and hence there is a saying, "It's never too early to send off the gods, and never too late to invite them back". Seems a bit different from the Abrahamist concepts of constant surveillance.
The fifth day of the festival typically involves removal of the offerings from altars. In Taiwan businesses reopen on this day which is considered the birthday of the god of wealth. Dumplings are a traditional serving today. People are supposed to stay home to welcome the god of wealth on this day. Visiting is considered bad luck. This day is called Po Wu in Mandarin.
People resume their visiting on the 6th to the 10th day of the New Years. The seventh day is known as the "birthday of the common man" when everybody turns one year older. This is a day when Chinese in Southeast Asia typically eat a raw fish salad, yusheng, though this custom is rare elsewhere in the world. For Buddhists this is another day to avoid meat. The raw fish are supposed to promote success. It's also a day of market gardens when farmers display their best produce. On the eighth day the people of Fujian have another family reunion dinner and at midnight pray to Tian Gong, the god of heaven.
The ninth day of the festival is considered to be the birthday of the Jade Emperor, the "king of the gods" in Taoism. Prayers are offered to the Jade Emperor on this day. The Hokkiens in China consider this to be the real New Years Day. Friends and relatives are invited to for further visits on the 10th to the 12th day. The Chinese New Years will culminate on the 15th day, March 5th in our calender. But more on that later.

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