Sunday, 26 January 2014

Chinese New Year 2014

As 2013 winds down and 2014 begins, do expect the weather to get much colder, snowier and windy to last until mid-March. No snowfall here but we experience cooler weather due to the relative lack of sunlight this time of year.

The days get longer and sunsets occur later every day, sunrise at 7.25am which is slower than usual 6.50am. The same goes for the sunset which now 7.25pm than the usual 6.50pm.

Occasionally, we would get a strong gust of wind, reminding us of what's just around the corner. Chinese New Year is just less than two weeks away. Chun fung: In Chinese, literally "spring wind." In China, a spring breeze is also a pleasant weather at the start of the spring season.

We are edging towards welcome the arrival of the dawn of the Lunar New Year, it stir up many memories both bitter and sweet related to our past.

During the Christmas festive season, a home would be considered incomplete if it does not involve decorated Christmas trees. The same can be said of a Chinese home would also be incomplete if it does not have decorations of auspicious plants and flowers for the Chinese New Year season. Having a lucky plant around will certainly lead the way into a prosperous and fortuitous good start for us to usher in the New Year.

Traditional Chinese New Year Spring Festival decorations Couplets / Scroll / Blessing word

This hold a special symbolic significance in traditional Chinese culture. It is written with black ink on red paper and  prominently displayed in front of one’s house or shop before the arrival of Chinese New Year. It represent wishes for the coming year will bring health, happiness and good fortune.

Spring couplets are traditionally posted on the front door of the house — on top horizontally, and on both sides vertically.
The common Chinese New Year greeting on the scrolls are welcome a new year filled with good fortune, good luck, good ..or in Chinese Couplets 'Gong Xi Fa Cai' And 'Xing Nian Kuai Le'

Common Greetings and Sayings for the Chinese New Year.  Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets.

新年快乐 Xīnnián kuàilè!- Happy New Year!
新年进步 Xīnnián jìnbù -  Making progress in new year!   
恭喜发财 Gōngxǐ fācái - Wishing you happiness and prosperity for the coming year!
财源广进 Cáiyuán guǎng jìn - wealth pouring in from every direction
年年有余 Niánnián yǒu yú nǐ- may there be surpluses year-after-year
吉星高照 Jí xīng gāo zhào - Fortune will smile on you.
吉祥如意 jí xiáng rú yì - may your good fortune be according to your wishes

Greetings and Sayings for Health

龙马精神 Lóng mǎ jīngshén - vigour of a dragon horse, a fabled winged horse with dragon also mean "vigorous spirit in old age"
身体健康 Shēntǐ jiànkāng -  wish you good health
精灵活泼 Jīnglíng huópō -wishing them to be active and smart. Especially used for young children under 10

Greetings and Sayings at Work and for Business

生意兴隆Shēngyì xīnglóng - Business flourishes
万事如意Gōngzuò shùnlì - May your career is going really well
工作顺利Wàn shì rú yì - May everything go as you wish
事业有成Shìyè yǒu chéng - Successful career 
马到成功Mǎ dào chéng gong Instant success ('horse to success' — usually success in an examination, presentation, negotiation, or competition)

In the past, the Chinese houses feature traditional greetings and good wishes couplets written by hand, but now it's so convenient for us because we can purchase readily available printed Chinese New Year greeting in high quality paper cut. They're well received by people who cannot read or write Chinese and some who are too busy to prepare themselves.

For those of us who isn't so fussy, they can even click and download free Chinese New Year greeting and print on a red banner.

There was plenty of couplets to choose from so it was hard to make up my mind
A woman shows a couple of new year scrolls written freely by calligraphers, they are hoping that their legacy will live on

Blimey! did you see that? You might be surprised to see the upside-down  the 福 character on so many doors and windows during and after Chinese New Year?
On first impressions is someone might have be drinking alcohol in excess last night. No, that's not true. Chinese word for arrive or "dao" can also imply to fall down or turn upside-down.
So, by literally turning the character 福, fu, upside-down is implying fortune has arrived. Fu dao le. Clever eh?

It is not malfunction display. Gotcha it's intended.

Mandarin oranges and tangerines play a significant role of Lunar New Year. Both are a symbol of good luck and oranges are that of wealth. Families will often buy small potted citrus tree, It is commonly called 'kat cai' (吉子) or  "kumquat"/ golden orange, symbol of prosperity and a traditional gift to friends and relatives.

Keep a bowl filled with mandarin oranges/Lukam on your table throughout the house. Mandarins are kept in even numbers as uneven numbers bring unhappiness. When offering mandarins to others, always offer them in pairs.
For tasty Lukam choose yongchun sweet mandarin orange. Many orange tree varieties need heat to sweeten their fruits, and if you grow them in an area with a mild climate, you may get oranges that are more sour than sweet. 

Why some of the oranges are sour rather than sweet ?

Possibility theory:

1- May be caused by harvesting the fruit too early (leave fruit longer on the tree).
2-Insufficient sunlight (Harvest too early  letting the oranges stay on the trees longer in winter helps to lower their acid content during the cooler winter temperatures.)Summer heat builds sugar in the fruits.
3- Small-to-medium sized fruits are also less sweet than the larger oranges.

In simpler days, there were only two type of Mandarin orange, Lokam from Yongchun, Fujian province and Teochew kam (Teochew mandarin oranges) from Guangdong province.( Distinguished packaged in case of wooden box and  wrap oranges in paper but now due to rising cost of wooden box it now comes in cardboard boxes.)

Now they are confusing me with too many varieties, I can't seem to differentiate them. I just want cheap and tasty oranges. That's all I need.

Fibers of orange peels 

I'm sure most of us has a habit of after peeling oranges, remove all the fibers that cover the fruits. Well, that's a waste of good stuff. As a matter of fact, the fibers contained a vitamin which helps to maintain the elasticity and density of the artery wall, which in turn reduces the danger of bleeding especially in the fine arteries. 

Hypertension patients usually have problem of brain hemorrhage while diabetic patients have retina hemorrhage. For people with tendency to bleed, especially old people with tendency of artery hardening, eating fibers of oranges and grapefruit peels is absolutely most unique and beneficial for your body. 

Why the companies do not use the knowledge they have inside to share with customers by printing a note on the box, something like "Do you know that fibers that cover the fruits is highly beneficial to your health?"

Displaying 8 Mandarin oranges, "8" is pronounced as "ba" in Mandarin, and it sounds
 similar to 发pronounced as "fa", meaning "prosperous
Set out a tray of candies with eight different types of candies of gummy arranged along it. The traditional candies are those made commonly consist of coconut milk, sweet potato, taro, cassava, green peas, peanuts and lotus seeds.

Candy Box filled with symbolic foods for the New Year for example
Longan (龙眼) - many good son. Lotus seeds/ -nuts/ -beans (蓮子; lián zĭ) shall in general produce many children.

As we welcome in the New Year and begin to make goals and resolutions for 2014, you probably know by now that 2014 is the year of the horse? The 2014 Chinese New Year Day will arrive on January 31, 2014.

The Chinese zodiac (Shēngxiào, or 生肖) is based on a 12 year cycle, with each year represented by an animal sign. My zodiac is year of the horse, this is his turns sitting on the throne of the mystical Chinese Zodiac cycle. 

I have to wait till 02/17/2026 to celebrate again my Zodiac. Hopefully , I will still be around for the next celebration.

Top of of the list of auspicious plants is lime tree or "kat-chai" (Chinese) decorated with ang pows for Chinese new year symbolise prosperity fortune.

Before lime reaches full maturity, the taste of the fruit itself is quite sourlimes. But unlike the lemon, the best lime tree harvest time or picked  when just a blush of yellow shows on. 

Limes are actually yellow once fully ripe but will be bitter and not taste very good when harvested yellow.

No, you cannot eat the limes on the tree you have just bought recently. They are solely for Chinese New Year decoration purpose and still are full of insecticide, toxic and pesticides, no kidding. Wait until the lime generating a second harvest.

The plant nursery worker gives me some advice. Get your lime tree at nursery plant rather than hypermarket cause those plants although appear cheaper but not lasting. A marketing ploy?

Watering instructions.  Regular watering will also help to insure maximum steady supply of limes and proper growth, however only twice a day during the cooler hours in the morning and the evening when the plants' roots are more receptive to watering.

Avoid pouring water directly on the leaves as it can cause the plant leaf to break off from the plant but very gently give a sprinkling the leaves. You need to water into the pot until it is about to overflow.

Do not move the lime pot around in the house. Stay put on one place. Don't know why?

One last thing. After six month remember to applied lime fertiliser.  This fertiliser is different from other fertiliser, so you can't simply get one and applied. Plant need different nutrients, so the fertiliser balance will depend on what you are going to grow.

Auspicious Plants for Chinese New Year.

Lime is said to foster good luck, wealth, and good health to the family and business the whole year. It has been used for ages in the treatment of various ailments. Packed with vitamin C - important for your immune system, especially in the cold and flu season
Bromeliads are very popular during the Chinese New Year season as they are regarded as auspicious plants.

Dwarf pineapples are an ornamental rather than an edible fruit. Ananas bracteatus 'Striatus', nanas merah.Most people prefer to rather eat the yellow pineapple they are said to be much sweeter than the red one.Pineapple is a sign of good fortune or prosperity (the Hokkien dialect word - 王梨or pineapple is ông-lâi)

Solanum pseudocapsicum. Inedible chili which is also known as Christmas cherry, winter cherry or Jerusalem cherry

Small citrus tree - mandarin orange in the pot 
Euodia ridleyi. Common name: Evodia. This is a rarely available small tree or shrub that is widely grown for its ornamental unusual foliage. 
Auspicious name: Bucket Of Gold, or yi tong huang jin

Wow, a full grown evodia plant shimmer like gold under the sunlight. A pot has been nicely done up for the festive season
Potted Red Hot Chili Pepper Plant not the rock group. Unlike normal, this chili point up above the leaves
translates from Chinese as “Chili which points to the sky”, or “sky pointing chili”.
Red is also universally accepted as an auspicious colour that brings good things
Bonsai Plants are Auspicious but some people may not agree with this.

Scindapsus aureus 'Marble Queen' though commonly called as Money Plant has large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves of green, considered lucky to a house

Arrow-head (Syngonium podophyllum ) shaped leaves is also called a good-luck plant but it might not be so lucky for pets. This plant are poisonous and cause severe mouth pain if eaten. To prevent children and pets from accessing vines, keep these plants trimmed.

Chinese in particular loves this 'good luck' plant due to its colloquial name "Gold Coin Tree" 

Crassula ovata, commonly known as jade plant, friendship tree, lucky plant, or money tree is a succulent plant with small pink or white flowers. 

 An eye-catching arrangement of lucky bamboo braided into the shape of a pineapple!

On the left, Lucky Bamboo is a popular indoor plant world wide and is one of the hardiest of all indoor plants as they are able to survive with only the light from a light bulb without any natural sunlight. Lucky bamboo are braided and stalks that total eight, 18 and 38 are especially auspicious in CNY.
 Lucky bamboo with a spiral stem decorated with little ornaments and little bird figurine

You may want to consider these artificial flower for CNY

Living rooms are decorated with vases of blossoms, peach being the most auspicious. Arriving in spring, they symbolise life, growth and prosperity. 

These beautiful artificial peach blossom flowers decoration will surely brighten the entire room and enhance the right mood for the occasion. It creates such a realistic look that can be seen only if looking real close.
You just can't decide what kind: real or fake flowers but eventhough you question its authenticity of the flower, it's the thought that counts. 

Peach blossoms is considered by Chinese as an auspicious symbol with the power to ward off evil and also represents courage and hope because it blossoms first and bravely stands against the dangers of winter.
To protect their home from Evil Spirits, peach blossoms were once placed above main doors for protection, and bloom of the peach flower buds during New Year signifies a fortunate year ahead.

Behold, I give you the fusion of East meets West cultural mix

For traditional Chinese New Year decorations instead of shiny red Christmas balls I decorated it with shiny red ornaments, ang pow and messages of good fortune.

Why the dramatic change in the weather pattern around the world?

Temperatures dipped to 17.2 deg C in Kuala Krai on 22nd January , while people in the Cameron Highlands shivered as the mercury fell to 12.3 deg C. This year the weather is weird. 

What's causing extreme and unpredictable weather across the world? Could it be the effects of global warming impact, rising sea levels and erode coasts seen in the world around us today?

Those scientists that predicted catastrophic climate change could happen within 50 years- a long distance future - may be underestimated the time period. In fact it's now more likely to happen sooner than we thought.

This year the weather here not only get cooler but the temperatures seem to drop more dramatically lower than usual. According to a forecast by Meteorological Department the relatively chilly condition is related to other part of the region particularly Europe and US continent.

Scientists explain this remarkable situation could be associated with..

1- The global climate change last year as the sea ice melts in a warming of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice caps.

2- A strong Siberian High blowing over Malaysia were responsible for bringing unusually cold weather.The Siberian High (also Siberian Anticyclone) is a massive collection of cold or very cold dry air that accumulates on the northeastern part of Eurasian terrain for the cold part of the year, roughly from September till April. Prior to its happening, the annual cold air would usually remain in China. On the contrary, it is now coming further south due to a change in the high-altitude wind flows.

3- Changes in the sun's ray energy affect how much energy reaches Earth's system. Scientist reported drop in activity on the surface of the sun, called the “sleeping sun” phenomenon. When they are saying that the Sun is in a phase of "solar lull" or meaning that it has fallen asleep. Historical records reveal that during that abnormal behaviour of "solar lull" coincide with bitterly cold winters. Seemingly decades ago in the 17th Century River Thames froze also due to the unusual "solar lull" coincide with bitterly cold winters.

Sleeping Sun Wake up, you Sleepyhead...We miss you!

MMD pointed out that other countries in the region also face impacts of climate change such as in northern Vietnam where it snowed for the first time in many years, and parts of Thailand were declared disaster zones after the mercury dipped below 5°C last month.
However, if you’re keeping your fingers crossed in hopes of a snow white Chinese New Year, you're in for disappointment.No way Jose that most definitely wasn't going to happen, it won’t snow. 

Explained by the MMD, “it’s impossible for a tropical country to experience such a phenomenon." Malaysia is on the equator, we have never experience snow here before, so the closest we get to encounter this is to enter artificial Snow World at Genting Highland. There's a chance you will get snowfall here one day. This is not an outrageous prediction in my view cause if Indonesia is located in the tropics and the temperature here is about 30C alike Malaysia, where I come from, there is sunshine all year round and seasonal rainfall.

It is humid country right? I'm sorry I disappoint you again. Apparently it is a fake Indonesia video goes viral. The big hoo-ha about it snowing in Indonesia is merely a rumour.Chile! The world’s driest hot desert is hit by SNOW last year on  Aug 27, 2013. I say, “If you are able to believe, everything is possible " than what you believed.

It's going to be a chilly Chinese New Year with the cold north-easterly wind forecast to continue for the next few weeks. We would normally wear something light and breezy nothing too warm during the Chinese New Year's celebrations but that's going to change this year cause it's predicted the weather is going a different turn of usual under the scorching hot sun!

Snow or not but one thing is definitely for sure  – it is 100% Absolutely Guaranteed this is going to be a chilly Chinese New Year and sweaters and accessories were in fashionable ways to stay warm over the next few weeks! 

'Winter' is here! Get your sweaters ready! Have a Merry Christmas chill out time.. Oops, I meant is  ...... Wishing Everyone a chilly Chinese New Year Gong Xi Fa Cai Shēntǐ jiànkāng! This Year of the Green Wooden Horse, I hope will bring me and my family good luck and good health in the coming year! 

Stop the press! ....On January 24, 2014, most of the other papers say this..It’s going to be a chilly Chinese New Year with the cold north-easterly wind forecast to continue for the next few weeks.

Many parts of the east coast and northern and central regions are experiencing cold weather because of the wind, according to the Meteorological Department.

So you might say our weather has its sense of humor. As it turned out these were not true. The weather making an illegal u-turn, no more continuous cold and breezy day.

On February 6, 2014, the newspapers would have to change their tune on the weather, after a week of scorching hot relentless sun. 

What it says in the papers.....

It is going to be hot and dry in most parts of Malaysia, with scorching afternoons to be followed by cold nights. The dry spell was caused by regional wind patterns that were not conducive for rainy weather.

These, he said, were attributed to an inactive monsoon trough; a lack of a monsoon surge from China and the non-influence of easterly winds from the Western Pacific Ocean.

He added that rain clouds appearing north of Australia might have also been responsible for drawing moisture from our region, further drying the weather here.

Muhammad said lack of clouds in the region meant that cold nights and hot afternoons were going to be common...Err.. a very desert like climate indeed, don't you think so?

Sometimes we wish the sun will go back to sleep again..

Lessons I've learned in these few days of Chinese New Year...

The perception of the first day of Chinese New Year 2014 zodiac sign still remains conspicuously unknown to many, lap chun (beginning of spring) actually marks at the beginning of a new zodiac year. 

The Year of the Horse officially started at 6.18am on 4th February 2014, in accordance with rules of geomancy.

People assume that when the first day of the lunar calendar records a change of a new Chinese zodiac year or to put it in simple terms...

When the year of the snake comes to an end, naturally the next day would be the year of horse, isn't it?

It's wrong, according to geomancy. The actual day only starts on lap chun. Lap chun usually falls on the fourth or fifth day of February of the Gregorian calendar. In the olden days, the Chinese would use lap chun as a time for them to start farming.

Somewhere in the world there's a mom or dad who thinks their baby is born on the year of the horse but actually is still under year of the snake.

Oh, dear me! I've missed out again to try the experiment on the truth in the story that one can stand an egg on end only on the first day of spring, also known as the vernal equinox.

"Egg of Li Chun"

Egg balancing has been connected with Lichun, the solar term beginning Chinese spring (春) on February 4 or 5 when the sun is at the celestial longitude of  315°

Sigh..Guess I'll have to wait another year. .


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