>Happy Chinese New Year! Gung Hei Fat Choy, as I would say in Cantonese, but the spelling is suspect. That dialect of Chinese is incredibly and notoriously difficult to write out. Chinese is a tonal language, so the same phoneme (syllable) spoken with a different intonation, rising, falling, dipping or high, means something different. Mandarin, now the national dialect, has just those four tones. I believe Cantonese has five. That’s probably why Cantonese sounds so sing-song; it actually IS a song.
That makes for tons of puns due to those homonyms. The sound “ma” can mean mother or horse, depending on the inflection. Be careful how you call your mom, huh? It is also the basis of many traditions and superstitions. For example, the word for the number four sounds like the one for death. Needless to note, four is not a lucky number in China. One of the reasons that red is the happy, lucky auspicious color is that the word for red sound like the one for prosperity. Makes perfect sense.
In fact, Gung Hei Fat Choy does not translate as Happy New Year, exactly. It sort of means “congratulations and be prosperous”. The prosperity part is incredibly important. But mostly New Year is for eating and connecting with family and honoring ancestors. And eating. For most people the party can go on for at least a week, but strictly speaking, New Year season is 15 days long.
I digress. One of the traditions I observed while growing up in a Chinese American household was that the things you do during New Year set the precedent for the whole year. So if you cry, you will be crying all year. It’s not like the Western thing, the New Year’s resolution. You can make all the resolutions you want, but it’s always up to you to make it so, know what I’m saying? There is an element of personal choice involved after the fact. With the Chinese tradition, you’re rather stuck. New Year karma. So my parents impressed on me the idea that if you are bad, messy, loud or hungry (as if that would ever happen!), then that’s how it’ll be for the rest of the year, no do-overs.
I forgot all about that today. Dang it. I should have gotten all the horrible work done before New Year and set this day aside to do pleasurable, fun, happy stuff. Instead I’ve been getting to tasks that are not my favorites: crochet pattern writing, housecleaning, laundry, pattern writing, updating my design pages at Ravelry, responding to crochet design questions and complaints. Did I mention pattern writing?
Put in another perspective, the only way I can conduct my design business is to write patterns for my crochet creations. Crochet patterns = prosperity. So if I find myself doing pattern writing all year, that can only mean I will earn some fees. This is not a bad thing. Fat Choy, Fat Choy!
However, there are so many other things I could do, better precedents to set for myself. So, in hindsight, here’s my list of stuff I should be doing today for a truly happy new year:
- Crocheting. Instead of writing crochet, I really should like to do crochet, now and all year long. Chances are I will anyway, but it might be good to have New Year luck on my side!
- Toasting with some bubbly wine, either a Spanish Cava or maybe an Italian Asti.
- Consuming mass quantities of chocolate.
- Talking to my friends and family. I consider myself a low-maintenance kind of person, but every once in a while it’s good to reach out and connect. It lets them know you are still breathing.
- Eating cake. Not baking that cake, though. Baking results in delicious products, yes. But the process entails work, mess, clean-up, which should not be my fate for the entire year.
- Browsing and buying yarn, hand candy. No rationalization needed.
Not a superstitious person in the least, I still have that little nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that maybe there’s something to it. So instead of blogging any more I think I’m going to wander off and enjoy setting some other precedents. 🙂
>I think Cantonese is 6 tones… Then again, I don't know for certain, given that I don't speak Cantonese. I understand the Shanghai dialect, can ID Cantonese and Taiwanese, and speak Mandarin (and English…). That in itself might tell you where my parents are from and all that.Either way… Happy Lunar New Year to you and yours. =D
>I only speak baby Cantonese, phrases like take a bath, eat, go to sleep, a few colorful insults. I also picked up enough to know when the grown-ups were talking about ME! So you could be correct about the six tones.
>I know enough Taiwanese to tell people I don't understand Taiwanese, and to understand when it's time to eat. Beyond that… nothing.My understanding the Shanghai dialect comes from the fact that my maternal grandparents spoke Mandarin with a VERY heavy Shanghai accent.Reading and writing the characters has me on a very basic level – and I'll tell you this much: Traditional vs. Simplified… Simplified has me more than slightly confused sometimes…But the interesting thing about the way things work in my head is that if I have a dictionary with the English words, the Chinese characters, and the pin yin, I can navigate with no problem.
>Happy New Year!
>Loved your post, as usual, Doris! On a personal note, I grew up in an Italian household and was told the same thing about the New Year. My mom used to say, 'whatever you do on New Year's (or don't do!) you will do or will happen all year! I still tell this to my kids and also make sure (although I am not usually superstitious) that I have a clean house, crochet, EAT, etc. on New Year's Day….