新年快樂!

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Happy Chinese New Year!

As my time in Taiwan draws to a close, I was excited to be able to remain on the island for the second new year, the lunar new year.  The Chinese New Year is in many ways a larger celebration than the new year that the whole world celebrates–which, if you ask me, is as it should be.  Though the Taiwanese people still familiarize themselves with both calendars, being among people of Chinese heritage who celebrate a new year like this as a cultural tradition deeply engrained into society means a lot more than simply dropping a glass ball or shooting fireworks off of Taipei 101 ever can.  Maybe its the sense of community that comes from the immense number of traditions that nearly all Taiwanese adhere to, thereby contributing to the focus on the group over the individual.  Whatever the cause, it seems that there is more unity in the Chinese New Year celebrations than in the Western one–the power of tradition.

But first, a history (or mythology) lesson, since I am a student of history:
“According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian (Chinese: 年; pinyinnián). Nian would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again.”
Coming from the ever-so accurate Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year#Mythology

And another rendition:
“The origin of the Lunar New Year Festival can be traced back thousands of years, involving a series of colorful legends and traditions. One of the most famous legends is Nian, an extremely cruel and ferocious beast that the ancients believed would devour people on New Year’s Eve. To keep Nian away, red-paper couplets are pasted on doors, torches are lit, and firecrackers are set off throughout the night, because Nian is said to fear the color red, the light of fire, and loud noises. Early the next morning, as feelings of triumph and renewal fill the air at successfully keeping Nian away for another year, the most popular greeting heard is “gong xi fa cai”, or “congratulations.””
http://www.herongyang.com/chinese/festivals/new_year.html

However it started, and whatever the validity of the myths, many of these things are still done.  It is always cool to be able to see some of them, particularly fireworks.  I’m sure the fireworks displays were more spectacular in the large cities, but we got a decent show where we were:

Probably one of the funniest parts about this Chinese New Year was the “modern art” exhibit that was set up in an empty field nearby.  Though we were hoping for something a little more extravagant, we did get some photo-worthy pieces.  Bear in mind that this is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit:

This giant bunny was constructed nearly entirely out of tires…recycling, anyone?
I have no idea what these bunnies of made out of, but they’re a lot less intimidating than the previous one.

And that hopefully gives you a small taste of my Chinese New Year!

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