Thursday, February 19, 2015

Flowers, red banners and lanterns signal Lunar New Year's arrival

Last week we were buried in roses. This week, keep your eyes open for peonies, branches of flowering plum trees and lucky bamboo. These will decorate homes around the world as more than 1 billion people celebrate Lunar New Year.
"The Chinese new year is almost like a combination of Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's," said John Chen, a Charlotte resident who was born in China’s Sichuan province. "You visit friends and relatives and you eat. It's almost a nonstop thing."
The 15-day spring festival to kick off the year of the goat (or sheep, depending who you ask) began Thursday.
While Christians bring pine-scented trees home to celebrate their big winter event, Asians choose flowers for the spring festival as a symbol of renewal.
Families also hang garlands and red banners painted with good wishes. They eat special foods and follow other traditions to bring a year of health, prosperity and good fortune.
Yet the sentiment that keeps coming up when Chen talks about the festivities is reunion. “You socialize with family and friends – that’s the priority,” he said.
You eat noodles for longevity during those gatherings as well as soft, sweet dumplings. The round shape is a symbol for a smooth, satisfying year.
After time with your family, the community celebrates the final day together with a lantern festival, this year on March 5. You’ll see the red lanterns hanging outside near doorways or elsewhere.
“We are brightening up the evening,” he said. “Instead of fizzling it out, you celebrate going into the new year.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms