Tag Archives: new years

Hope You Get Rich—恭喜发财

Background:
The informant was from a southern province in China called Guangdong, or Canton. He heard the saying from relatives that came from the same region. This tradition is a four-character word that expresses the best wish, which is the hope people will get rich. It has variations such as adding another four characters that meant “give the red pocket,” which involves the tradition of the Chinese New Year.

Context:
Every Chinese New Year, people would visit relatives and hang out with families. When my informant’s families greet each other, they say, “hope you get rich” instead of “happy new year.”

Main Piece:
恭喜发财
translation: hope you get rich

Analysis:
The Chinese New Year is the most important time of the year, and people express their best wishes to their families. The fact that Cantonese greets each other with “hope you get rich” reflects their values about wealth. Canton has long been a place where trading is happening. Many people have a family business or participate in businesses. Thus, “hope you get rich” is an appropriate wish for businessmen, which is why it is prevalent in Canton.

Ritual: New Year’s Eve Jump

Text

Interspersed within their explanation of the ritual are frequent giggles as the informant looked back on performing this ritual.

“Something that happens on the night of New Year’s Eve– I guess it happens right at countdown. My family does this for years. My mom still does this. Right when it strikes midnight, we jump as high as we can several times until the first minute is done, so you can get taller in the New Year.”

Context

RELATIONSHIP –
“This is just really funny because my mom is 4’9″. I grew up doing it. I don’t know if it’s just a Filipino tradition… but it’s something that my family has been doing. I think it was something more prominent as I became a teenager because my mom is all about the holidays, so she says ‘Ah, just keep jumping! Show your excitement! Ah, the New Year!’ Of course, I don’t believe in it because I’ve been 5’1″ for several years.”

WHERE THEY HEARD IT –
“My mom. I don’t remember the first time it happened. I think it was when I was really young, like when I was in Kindergarten. It was around when I was finally old enough to stay awake around midnight. I knew it was really early on in my elementary school years. I would jump, but my eye level wouldn’t go up that high.”

INTERPRETATION –
“It’s just a silly little thing to do with your family to get enjoyment out of the celebration. It’s one of those traditions my mom does just to like, bring the family together. She grew up with nine other siblings so I’m sure a lot of family traditions happened a lot in her childhood, and she kind of wanted to transfer that to us– to her kids.”

Analysis

This jumping ritual seems to stem off the belief that, with the New Year, comes hope for change. Tall height is seen as an attractive trait to have in many places, and it may be something that people wish for themselves to happen in the future. Especially in the case of younger children when it’s uncertain what height they’ll grow into yet, it feels like a number that’s malleable and subject to change, so it’s natural that people try to take matters into their own hands in an attempt to reach the height that they wish for themselves in the future. Eventually, the belief in it dies down as the participants grow older, but at that point it’s just a fun activity to do with the family and people around you on New Year’s Eve.

Coins for the New Year

M is 54, and grew up in Manila, Philippines, and currently resides in San Gabriel, California.

M always says that during the New Year, “you must always have money in your wallet or carry coins in your pocket”. He said that this would ensure that you “always have money during the New Year.”

A saying commonly passed around Filipino families, this is a tradition that has been practiced in my family for as long as I can remember. Even if we were not carrying money throughout the day, my brother and I were each given a handle of coins to have as the New Year clock counted down. It appears that Filipino people, and other cultures and ethnic groups, regard the New Year as a deeply momentous and symbolic time. This can be seen in copious amounts of traditions practiced around that time. 

In fact, the coins in the pocket tradition are performed in tandem with other New Year’s traditions my parents have passed down, including eating noodles (for a long life), and jumping when the clock strikes midnight (to grow taller in the new year).

Brazilian New Year’s Tradition

Background

This is a description of the Brazilian New Year’s tradition, specifically that of northeast Brazil. The informant is a third-generation Brazilian American, although she has spent a considerable amount of time living in northeast Brazil–specifically the state of Bahia–and is fluent in Portuguese. The informant describes the rituals and traditions common for New Year’s Eve and Day in northeast Brazil. She is careful to note that the traditions come from the traditional Brazilian religion espiritismo, which is a syncretic mix of African religions and Catholicism. She is not an adherent of espiritismo, but she states that the tradition is widespread in Brazil, even for those not following the religion.

Text


MM: Um, so on New Year’s Eve, you typically wear a color that signifies what kind, what you want to bring into the new year. So the most traditional one is white. People want a peaceful new year, that’s white. Um, but the other most popular colors that people wear are yellow to signify wealth and prosperity in the new year. And red to signify passion and love and romance and sex in the new year.


MM: Um, and then on New Year’s Day, there’s a tradition in the northeast of Brazil, Bahia, to go to the ocean and, um, give, put white flowers on the water, um, as an offering for the new year for Iemanjá, who is the goddess of the sea and the most powerful, uh, deity in Brazilian spiritism.

Analysis

As is clear from the informant’s description of the tradition, while there are clear connections to espiritismo, it is not necessary to adhere to the religion to be influenced by it in Brazil. The informant knows that the deity is Iemanjá who controls the sea, but the deity is described from a secular perspective rather than a religious one. That an expat can experience this tradition is indicative of its pervasiveness in Brazil and espiritismo’s entrenchment in Brazilian culture.

The colors are significant here, too, and point to cultural perceptions of color in Brazil. Red, for example, is associated with passion and sex, suggesting a connection with fertility, menstruation, and blood. The three mentioned are common color associations in European culture, but given the syncretic nature of espiritismo, the associations very well could have originated in Africa.

Iemanjá being the primary deity in espiritismo might allude to the importance of the ocean during the colonial period, especially given that such a massive proportion of the Transatlantic Slave Trade ended up landing in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The treacherous journey across the ocean might be one influence, and the fact that Brazilian colonies largely existed along the coast might be another.

Pomegranate for New Years

Main Piece:

Informant: We crack a pomegranate on New Year’s Eve, or like as soon as it like midnight again, I don’t know why, like if I asked my mom she’d be like like this just something we have to do. I’m like, okay, cool. Yeah, like I’d guess pomegranates are a symbol of life and like a new beginning kind of which is why you crack it like, you know, at midnight for the new year. But no, she takes it very seriously too. So like, for example, this past New-New Years. It was just me my mom, my sister. My dad was at work and yeah, so we watched the ball drop in Times Square. And then my mom had a pomegranate ready, like a full one, like you don’t touch it at all. And what you do is you go to your front porch or like the entrance to your house or like, wherever you want something that’s like, again, like an entry. I feel like in Turkey that that’s a lot of important like entrances of like, you know, you start something new, so you want to do it at an entrance of your life or something like symbolizes, you know, like when you walk into your home, it’s not something new. It’s a new year. So anyways, we go to our front porch and you’ve just like hold the, the pomegranate the full thing in your hand and you just drop it and you have to have a crack if it doesn’t crack, you know, you just keep going. And then and then it’s like okay, yay. Like now the new year has officially begun. So for her it didn’t it doesn’t start till then and then you you know, clean up the shells. And as many of the seeds that didn’t touch that like the seeds that are still in the pomegranate. Obviously, you throw the ones that touch the ground out and then you eat the seeds.

Relationship to the piece:

“If we don’t do it, then it doesn’t feel like the start of a new year. It doesn’t feel like the past is behind us. Like something it just kind of like commemorates a new beginning and if we don’t do it, it’s like we’re still in the old year. Kind of thing.”

Context: 

The informant is one of my friends, a 20 year old Turkish American theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in her room after I asked her about some of the traditions she grew up with. 

Analysis:

I’d never heard of this tradition, but I feel like a lot of traditions surrounding the new year have to do with inviting in what you want for the New Year, but for my informant, this tradition is about welcoming in the New Year. Breaking the pomegranate is like breaking open the new year and then you have to ingest what’s been broken, you’re literally taking in the New Year. I also think it’s interesting how, for many children of immigrants we follow traditions because our parents tell us to, rather than doing it because we know exactly what it means. We just know that certain holidays don’t feel right if we don’t follow these traditions.