Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Etiquette for the Chinese New Year

The Lunar New Year holiday is celebrated by many Asian cultures. It is usually celebrated over a minimum three-day period, to about fifteen days, surrounding the first full moon of the year. Festivities begin the day before the full moon, the day of the full moon, and the day following the full moon.
Chinese tourists in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Thailand, have been the target of numerous complaints from locals who've accused the visiting Chinese of causing traffic accidents with reckless driving, defecating in the city's moat and defacing several popular tourist attractions. Officials announced Monday that thousands of Chinese tourists visiting Thailand during the New Year holiday will receive tourism etiquette manuals in an effort to curb "offensive behaviour." The city of Chiang Mai, the most popular destination for Chinese tourists, will be the focal point of the Mandarin-language manuals, with some 90,000 of them expected over this week's holiday period. According to Thai news agencies, the manual will list museum etiquette, such as not touching paintings, warn against using public property as lavatories, and encourage proper driving behaviour, according to the Tourist Authority of Thailand office in Chiang Mai.

The following are some of the etiquette practices that the Chinese community,  in particular, observe in preparation for the arrival of the Lunar New Year:
1. Settle all debts before the Lunar New Year begins. The goal of settling one's debts is to begin the New Year with a "clean slate" or fresh start. It is to ensure that sufficient funds will be available to provide all that will be needed to ensure a joyous celebration will be had by all.

2. Use special paper greetings, flowers, and fruits to decorate your home. Greeting cards and good luck symbols are tied on a blooming tree along with an abundance of fragrant flowers and fruits. It is a cultural belief, that the more abundant the tree is with these beautiful items, the more good luck the family will experience in the Lunar New Year.

2015 ~ Year of the Goat... Or Year of the Lobster? Lots of American lobster is now on the menu in Beijing for this 2015's Chinese New Year. Actually, exports of U.S. lobster to China have skyrocketed over the past couple of years, in an effort to satisfy the appetites of China's increasingly growing middle class. The steamed, whole crustaceans are flown in live from the U.S.  Serving the festive, red delicacy is a mark of prosperity and they happen to be good luck symbols too.

3. Celebrating the Lunar New Year is a family affair in Chinese culture, with plenty of food and drink. This time is utilized to heal and reconcile and strengthen relationships as we transition into the year. Make sure all your favorite dishes, plus a few traditional foods, are in abundance. Running water during the first day in the New Year is frowned upon because doing so denies the earth and water a day of rest.

4. "Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to all!" Everyone becomes a year older with the Lunar New Year, no matter when your birthday is celebrated. Children are given red “Lai See” envelopes with “good luck” money inside. This tradition is also used for many other festive occasions, in lieu of more modern, gift-giving practices.

5. Visit family, friends and build new friendships. The first day in the New Year is spent with your immediate family, the second day is often spent with good friends and special guests. Modern traditions dictate that the third day be spent celebrating with teachers and business associates.This is also a great opportunity to create new friendships and start the Lunar New Year off together.

6. Pay significant attention to your actions. Recognize the first acts you perform in the Lunar New Year. Displays of anger, lying, raising your voice, indecent language and breaking anything during the first three days of the New Year is forbidden, especially the first day.

Hopefully these tips will help you celebrate with your friends in the Asian community and enjoy the wonderful traditions that accompany them. 

Happy Lunar  New Year!

Lai See Etiquette 

(From Geo

During Chinese New Year, and stretching into the following week, you may notice a flurry of red envelopes being exchanged almost everywhere you go. These fancy little red envelopes, called "lai see", are packets that contain good luck money. Giving lai see to people is a big part of Chinese New Year celebrations, so you don't want to miss out on giving (or receiving!) them in the following couple of weeks. 
But giving lai see is not like handing out candy to children on Halloween (unless you're one of those grumps who don't like giving treats to the kids without costumes). There's a set of rules you have to abide by when giving out lai see. 
Locals give out lai see like it's second nature to them, but in fact, there are different amounts distinguished for different people and people with different marital statuses and also people with different job positions. Starting to feel a little weary about this whole business? You'll get the hang of it once you understand proper lai see etiquette. 
Lai see is bestowed from "big to small", "old to young", and "senior to junior". For example, if you are the boss or manager, you should give lai see to your employees. If you live in an apartment complex with its own management staff, you should give lai see to your security guard, cleaners, and doorman. Married couples also give to their single, younger relatives, and may give two lai see packets to each recipient (one from each spouse). If you are unmarried, you will usually only need to give one packet to each recipient. 
You don't have to give lai see to everyone you know, but keep in mind that there is a chance you may forget somebody. People usually bring a pile of red envelopes with them whenever they go out, just in case they might bump into someone accidentally. It's best to keep a mixture of $10, $20, $50, and $100 envelopes on you to be ready at all times. The amount you put in the lai see is up to you.  
Use this handy guide to avoid any lai see faux-pas. Don’t forget to give and receive with both hands as this is regarded as a sign of courtesy. Also, never let children give out lai sees to older folk or service staff – this is considered insulting.

Compiled and submitted by Demita Usher of Social Graces and Savoir Faire