Today is the eve of the Chinese new year (除夕), when families gather for the customary reunion dinner. This year is no exception – I have just spent a few pleasant hours chatting with my family, over a sumptuous dinner prepared by my mum.
Now that dinner is over, I’m back at home, and the kids are fast asleep. I’m trying my best to stay awake past midnight (I’ve been up since 5am, so it’s quite a bit of a challenge keeping my eyes open).
Why am I not in bed? Well, I’m upholding a Chinese new year custom called “守岁” (shŏu suì) , which entails staying up on the eve of the new year. Literally translated, 守 means “to watch”, while 岁 means “year” or “age”. The origins are not very clear, but most versions involve the mythical beast called “年” (nián), which appeared at the stroke of midnight on the Chinese New Year to hunt. In order to stay alive, people stayed awake to watch for the creature, and ward off its attacks by letting off firecrackers. 年 and 岁 both mean “year” in Chinese, so the practice of watching for the beast also came to be known as “守岁”.
Of course, I’m not staying up because I think that a monster is going to attack at the stroke of midnight. Rather, the Chinese believe that when children “守岁”, it will increase the longevity of our parents. With the arrival of the Year of the Horse, I hope that my parents will be blessed with health and happiness in the coming year.
As I come to the end of this post, it has just passed midnight. I hear the fireworks going off, and it’s time for me to go to bed. Before I go, let me wish everyone health, happiness and peace in the Year of the Horse. Happy Chinese New Year everyone!
Do you follow traditional customs?