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How Do You Say “Gong Hey Fat Choy” In Other Asian Countries? by Achelle Vinzon
Together with Christmas and the Gregorian calendar (Solar) New Year, Chinese New Year is also one of the most celebrated holidays in the whole world.  This is largely due to the fact that most major cities in the world have large Chinese communities.  Indeed, there are Chinatowns in almost every country!  Big, western cities, such as London and San Francisco, in fact, boast about having one of the world’s grandest CNY celebrations outside of Asia.  So how do the rest of Asia celebrate this popular holiday?

Despite the fact that other Asian countries, just like the rest of the world, follow the Gregorian calendar, the Lunar New Year is still considered a major holiday not just by the Chinese communities in these countries, but the countries themselves, as well.  Given the significant Chinese populations in other Asian countries, and their geographic proximity to mainland China, their CNY celebrations bear a very distinguishable and substantial Chinese imprint.  At the same time, the festivities are also marked with the unique, modern and cultural influences of each country.
 
Depending on the country, CNY may or may not be recognized as an official public holiday; the length of the celebrations also vary.  Most Asian countries that celebrate CNY begin the festivities on Chinese New Year’s Eve, with the colorful and noisy revelry characteristic of CNY.  According to Wikipedia’s article on Chinese New Year:

Chinese New Year is observed as a public holiday in a number of countries and territories where a sizable Chinese population resides. Since Chinese New Year falls on different dates on the Gregorian calendar every year on different days of the week, some of these governments opt to shift working days in order to accommodate a longer public holiday. In some countries, a statutory holiday is added on the following work day when the New Year falls on a weekend, as in the case of 2013, where the New Year's Eve (9 February) falls on Saturday and the New Year's Day (10 February) on Sunday.  (Source)

The traditions of lighting firecrackers, dazzling fireworks displays, dancing dragons and lions, scrumptious and auspicious feasts, predominantly red decorations, widespread displays of that year’s Chinese animal, and the giving of money in red envelopes are the common factors in Asian CNY celebrations. 

Among Asian countries, the merriest and biggest CNY festivities outside China are held in Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.  CNY in the Philippines is also a big event, given the huge Filipino-Chinese community, and has actually recently been recognized as a public holiday; but the celebrations are not as grand as those in neighboring SE Asian countries. 

CNY in Singapore.

More than 50 percent of Singapore’s population is Chinese, so it’s not surprising that the island-state celebrates CNY with a lot of pomp and fanfare.  CNY holiday in Singapore officially lasts for three days, but most Chinese-Singaporeans and Singaporeans take the whole week off from work to celebrate and spend time with family and friends.   
The Chingay Parade is a major Chinese New Year event in Singapore.
In keeping with Chinese tradition, Chinese New Year’s Eve brings together families; the reunions are centered around opulent dinners, which feature foods with names that are considered auspicious and those that are often served during special occasions.  Additionally, many households also believe in welcoming the New Year with a house that is spic and span and free of bad luck and evil spirits!    

CNY in Singapore offers many, splendid highlights.  The festivities kick off in Singapore’s Chinatown, where a traditional Chinese enclave is found.  Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road, and Garden Bridge – the major streets in Chinatown – are lit up with traditional, red, Chinese lanterns, as well as colorful street lights. 

Of course, the noise of seemingly endless firecrackers and the stunning display of fireworks accompany the arrival of CNY.  The Chinese New Year’s Countdown is always an anticipated event, often attended by local celebrities.  

These and other avenues are also made more alive and merry by amazing street performers, such as acrobats and lion dancers.  Chinatown also hosts a Festive Street Bazaar, with hundreds of stalls up and down Pagoda Street, Smith Street, Sago Street, Temple Street and Trengganu Street, selling traditional Chinese New Year foods, decorations, and other knick knacks.   

Every year, the Singapore River Hong Bao carnival is one of the most popular highlights of CNY festivities.  Every evening, Chinese cultural performances, such as Chinese opera and acrobatics, can be enjoyed by all.  Chinese artwork are prominently displayed along Marina Bay, which is also decorated by huge lanterns shaped like famous Singapore landmarks.  Zodiac readings and delicacies from different regions in China complete the CNY experience!

Lastly, but definitely not the least, Singapore’s famous Chingay Parade is the second-biggest event of the CNY celebrations in Singapore, after the Chinese New Year’s Eve Countdown.  The parade is a two-night street party, with thousands of performers from Singapore, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and even Denmark showcasing thrilling performances.  The parade itself include floats and a procession and is accentuated by music, noise, and a lot of color. 

CNY in Malaysia.

Malaysia, specifically Penang, Malaysia, claims to have the largest and most uproarious CNY celebrations in SE Asia. 

Malaysian Chinese families come together to celebrate this most important Chinese holiday with a lot of food, drinks, and gambling. 

George Town in Penang is where the party’s at.  The exhilarating celebrations on the streets of George Town also commemorate the recognition of the city as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The Cultural and Heritage celebration during CNY showcases the city’s different cultural traditions, traditional Chinese performing arts, Chingay performances, and lion dances.   
CNY in Penang is outstanding, claimed to be the best celebration in SE Asia.
For many days before and after Chinese New Year’s Day, thousands of lanterns and hundreds of thousands of light bulbs are illuminate The Temple of Supreme Bliss, or Kek Lok Si Temple.

The sixth day of the Chinese New Year is believed to be the birthday of the Chinese deity, Chor Soo Kong, the guardian of wild snakes.  Visitors pay their respects at Penang’s Snake Temple, which has been the refuge of countless snakes since the 19th century. 

Penang is also home to Hokkien Chinese, who celebrate CNY in their own, grand and lively fashion.  Tables in every home overflow with food; decorations of sugarcane stalks on the tables commemorate the escape of the Hokkiens from invading forces by hiding in a sugarcane field.  On the midnight of Chinese New Year’s Eve, they offer prayers, liquor, food, and sugarcane stalks to the Jade Emperor God.  The Hokkiens hold CNY festivities at the Chew Jetty on Weld’s Quay. 

The 15th and last night of the CNY holiday is known as Chap Goh Meh, which is similar to Valentine’s Day.  Ladies of marrying age throw oranges into the waters beyond the Penang Esplanade and wish for a suitable husband. 

CNY in Vietnam.

Vietnam also follows the Lunar Calendar, and so also celebrates the Lunar New Year.  Vietnamese New Year is acalled Tet Nguyen Dan or simply Tet, which literally means “the first morning of the first day of the New Year.”  It is the most important festival in the country, which lasts a week and with the biggest celebrations held in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Hue. 

Tet is also a time for families to be together; Vietnamese travel from all parts of the country and the world to be with family during the Tet week-long holiday.  Families pay tribute to their ancestors during Tet, placing offerings and burning incense on their altars at home every mid-day of the entire week.     

The Kitchen God, a deity revered by both the Vietnamese and the Chinese, plays a prominent role during Tet.  It is believed that the Kitchen God reports to the Jade Emperor about each family before he is replaced by the new Kitchen God.  So a week before Tet, families make offerings to the Kitchen God by burning gold leaf paper and placing live carp in a bucket in front of the deity’s altar.  They also clean their houses thoroughly, or give them a fresh coat of paint; decorations of yellow flowers and Cay Neu, a bamboo plant that they believe protects them from evil spirits and attracts good luck, and on which they also hang flowers and streamers.       

When the clock strikes twelve on the eve of Tet, the sound of drums, firecrackers, and barking dogs welcome the new Kitchen God and the New Year.  On the day of Tet itself, families share a large and delicious feast, which includes traditional New Year foods: watermelons, which are considered lucky because of their red color; coconuts, grapefruits, and oranges, which are also considered lucky fruits; and Banh Chung, a rice pudding stuffed with pork bits and mung beans. 

The exchanging of gifts is also practiced.  Families visit their respective places of worship to pray for a prosperous year ahead.  Outside, parades fill the streets. 
On the last day of Tet, .  Households take down the Cay Neu plant, and dragon processions mark the end of the celebrations.

CNY in the Philippines

The huge Filipino-Chinese community consider Chinese New Year as their most important holiday.  Celebrations are very similar to how Chinese on the mainland usher in the New Year; except for the Chinese communities themselves, the country only celebrates on Chinese New Year’s Day itself.

The district of Binondo in Manila is where Chinatown is located.  The biggest attraction are the extravagant fireworks displays that light up the night sky all over Metro Manila, and other major cities, on the eve of the New Year. 

Dragon and lion dances are very popular, not only in Chinatown, but also in many of the big malls all over the country; business establishments, both big and small, that are owned by Filipino-Chinese families also host their own dragon and lion dances.  Chinatown holds a dragon and lion dance competition which is joined by many Filipino-Chinese families and groups. 

Most families, Chinese-Filipinos and otherwise, practice the tradition of giving away red envelopes with money in them.  They also serve foods, mostly fruits, that are believed to be lucky.  It is a popular belief that each home should have 12 different kinds of round fruits to attract good luck the entire year.  Red decorations, like scrolls and lanterns printed with blessings and well wishes in Chinese characters, or the Chinese New Year animal festoon many homes, offices, establishments, and the streets.  Chinese bazaars pop up everywhere, selling all kinds of traditional Chinese knick knacks and treats; many families buy small statues or tokens that represent that year’s Chinese animal.  
 
So how do you say “Gong Hey Fat Choy” in other Asian countries?  The same way, of course!  “Gong Hey Fat Choy” is Cantonese, while “Gong Xi Fa Cai” is Mandarin.  Both, however, is the Chinese way of wishing someone to “Have a prosperous year ahead!” 


From: Original         Author: Achelle Vinzon         Time: 2/9/2014 3:27:37 PM

 
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#2014-02-11 14:35:00 by Barry1 @Barry1
Reply @achelle

Thank you for this illuminating description of how CNY is celebrated in different countries, Achelle. Very interesting, as usual.

One or two things worried me though. For example, you said,

"many households also believe in welcoming the New Year with a house that is spic and span and free of bad luck and evil spirits!"

Does this mean that if I lived in Asia, during the new year period, I'd have to conduct a major house cleaning exercise, that sounds to be a lot of hard work. Would it be acceptable if I perhaps simply cleaned the dishes in the sink, rather than the entire property? But even worse, with regard to getting rid of the spirits, do you mean I'd have to pour my bottles of Johnnie Walker, Tequila and Russian Vodka down the sink? What a waste of good, hard liquor! Could I maybe just carry them out to the garden shed, then sneak them back into the house after CNY is over?

In Malaysia on CNY, you mentioned,

"Ladies of marrying age throw oranges into the waters beyond the Penang Esplanade and wish for a suitable husband."

It may be a little too bold for most innocent Chinese ladies, but for those sweet souls wishing to find a good man in a timely manner, perhaps if they disrobed entirely and lustily threw their clothing into the waters, rather than just oranges, they'd find men - most with their tongues hanging out and salivating profusely! - wanting to meet them a helluva lot more quickly!

By the way, you also mentioned the typical CNY phrase “Gong Hey Fat Choy”. This actually caused me a lot of trouble unfortunately.

When I was passing through the local Chinatown here during this last CNY period, I merrily stuck my head out the window of my car, happily yelling out "“Gong Hey Fat Choy!" to all the Chinese that I saw. At one set of traffic lights however, as soon as I cried this out, a container of frozen yoghurt hit me on the head, thrown by a rather obese looking Westerner on the footpath.

"Why did you do that!!" I exclaimed loudly, as I scratched my sore noggin.

"No one tells me to "Go away, fat boy!" and gets away with it!" he shrieked back at me.



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