The lunar new year, commonly known as Chinese New Year, is the biggest holiday in Chinese culture. Celebrated since the Shang dynasty (1600 BCE), it’s a 15-day festival that starts on the new moon and ends on the full moon of the first lunar month. If you are near any Chinatown, you will experience the festive sights and sounds as people prepare for the coming year. Firecrackers, crimson spring couplets, sweet cakes, along with red and gold decorations are part of the celebratory theme. Enjoy! But let's not forget to take care of ourselves to keep our health and well-being during the holiday season and all the new year.
The Legend of Lunar New Year
The ancient origins of Chinese New Year started with a mystical creature, a half-lion monster known as “Nian” which reigned terror upon the people at the end of every winter. The monster besieged merciless attacks upon livestock and sometimes, unattended young children. Everyone dreaded the end of winter. An old man arrived one day and announced that he will drive away this monster. The villagers, though skeptical, were tired of living in fear and went along with his plan. He prepared firecrackers and wrote blessings on red paper which he placed onto every door of each home. When Nian arrived, the villagers promptly lit all the firecrackers, one household after another. Within moments the entire town was crackling and bursting with tremendous light and noise. The beast, shocked by the firecrackers and red hues, fled and never returned. From that day onward, the Chinese celebrated each lunar new year with joy, abundance, and plenty of firecrackers and red color.
Chinese New Year Traditions
While it’s a celebration of family reunions and welcoming of spring, there are many traditions and superstitions to make sure the coming year is lucky. For those who have not been schooled in the customs of Chinese New Year, we offer a rudimentary guide to help you usher in an auspicious beginning:
It’s customary and polite to offer an auspicious greeting. The common one is: “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, which means wishing you prosperity. Or one can always stick to “Xin Nian Kuai Le” - Happy New Year.
Offer sweet treats to your guests - candied nuts, fruit, sesame crackers, and sticky rice cakes are popular in Chinese homes.
Wear something new, bright, and preferably red. Black and/or white clothing are no-no’s, as they are colors for funerals.
If you visit someone during this time of the year, make sure you bring a basket of mandarins, or some delicious treats, preferably in red or gold wrappings.
If you are married, be prepared to dole out red envelopes (with cash inside) to children or younger unmarried members. We call this lucky money.
Ideally, you should have already spring-cleaned your home prior to the new year. Cleaning on new year's day might sweep away good fortune.
Get your haircut before the new year. Cutting your hair during the first days of the new year can "snip away" good luck.
Eat dumplings. They are shaped like coins of ancient China, and therefore it is believed that by eating them you attract money in the new year. In TCM, this dish also increases blood flow and warms your internal organs being warm in nature.
TCM Health Advice for Holiday Season
Amid all this holiday hustle and bustle, we often forget about healthy patterns and allow ourselves to relax. This is fine! However, even during the holidays, try to stick to some of the TCM health guidelines. After all, the holidays end sooner or later and our body stays with us. So let's help it stay healthy.
Watch Food Dosage
Pineapple tarts, dumplings, spring rolls - the abundance of festive dishes calls for you to have a belly feast. However, when you overeat, your holiday can be ruined by symptoms such as indigestion, nausea, and bloating. Subsequently, all of them can lead to food stagnation and inner heat.
Control Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is a frequent guest on the festive table. But its abuse leads to hangovers, nausea, bloating, and heaviness. In TCM, excess alcohol can lead to Damp-Heat in stomach and spleen, the consequences of which can be poor appetite, loose stools, phlegm production, skin swelling, oily skin, Yin damage, Toxic Heat (often manifested in bacterial infections of the skin). It's just not worth it.
Drink Enough Water
This tip is relevant during the holidays for two reasons. First, in this way you save your body from retaining water, puffiness, and bloating (which is especially true given the abundance of food and alcohol). When our smart body gets enough water, it doesn't accumulate fluid for fear of its lack. Also, endless conversations with loved ones are a wonderful attribute of a festive feast. But when you talk a lot and don't drink water, your lungs lose Yin and Qi. This can lead to dry mouth and throat.
Consume Herbal Teas
Herbal medicine is one of the pillars of TCM. During the holidays, herbal teas can heal and soothe some of the effects of the festive table:
Hawthorn. Its sour taste is great for bloating and indigestion.
Ginger. With its warming nature, ginger has many healing properties: it promotes digestion, strengthens the stomach and spleen, and reduces nausea.
Gehua. Reduces blood alcohol levels and thus alleviates hangover symptoms such as headache, dizziness, indigestion, and nausea.
Mulberry leaf. This is an ancient remedy for lowering blood glucose after eating pineapple tarts and other sweets.
Avoid Late Bedtimes
TCM practitioners encourage us to go to bed no later than 11 pm. Going to bed too late overloads your liver. As a result, you may experience unpleasant symptoms such as bad breath, irritability, sores and pimples.
Acupressure requires little time and is easily done at home. During the holidays, you should focus on such points as:
Si Feng (on the palmar surface, in the middle of the interphalangeal joints index, middle, ring and little fingers) - copes with eating disorders
Xia Wan (located 2 cun above the navel) - indicated for bloating, indigestion, and vomiting
Zu San Li (4 finger widths down from the dent at the anterolateral of the knee cap) - helps with bloating, abdominal pain, poor digestion
Nei Guan (on the inner forearm at a three-finger distance from the wrist crease, between two tendons) - treats stomach pain and nausea
Tai Chong (on the foot, two toes above where the thumb and next toes meet) - needed for liver detoxification, getting rid of internal heat, treating nausea and digestive problems.
Chinese New Year is a family holiday and there is no greater joy than spending it with loved ones. May they be with you all year round and health and well-being accompany you regardless of the season! Wishing you much joy and great prosperity for the new year!
Start the lunar new year with a ritual of self-care. This mini set will take care of the beauty and health of your skin. Limited sets available.