Each of the first six days of the new year is dedicated to a birthday of a particular animal - chicken, dog, pig, sheep, ox/cattle, and horse. The seventh day (yesterday) was the birthday of the common man.
Today, the Eighth day of Chinese New Year is known as The Completion Day.
The Completion Day basically means people should return from the holiday vacation and go back to work. All the meat and cakes prepared for Chinese New Year should finish on this day. Everything should be back to normal. Of course, this could be what was practised in the old days. Today, cookies and other tidbits for the festival are still available and ready for guests when they come visit.
Though most of us have gone back to our routine, the customary activities that make Chinese New Year what it is are still being practised until the end of the 15 days of this Spring festival. The common activities include visiting homes of relatives and friends, near and far; getting together for dinners mostly in restaurants which has to include that lou sang raw fish salad tossing; giving and receiving of hongbao/red packets; wearing new clothes (yes, some people make it a point to have 15 pieces of new clothing - one for every day of the 15-day festival); making an effort to use good/positive language and generally being nice.
For the Hokkien or Fujian people, another family dinner is held tonight to celebrate the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven.
Approaching 12 midnight on this Eighth day, Hokkien people prepare for a Jade Emperor ritual (Pai Ti Gong or 拜天公) to honour him on his birthday where incense is burnt and food offerings made. Fireworks and firecrackers are set off as an accompaniment to this ritual. The spluttering noise of these is believed to chase away evil spirits replaced by good fortune. This ritual is very much celebrated here in Malaysia, especially in Penang where a large part of the population is of Hokkien or Fujian heritage. It is also much practised in Singapore.
The Hokkien community considers this day as the Hokkien New Year, celebrated on a grander scale than the first day of new year.
Traditional food items offered to the Jade Emperor include sugarcane, thni kuih (sweet cakes), ang koo (red glutinous rice cakes with a tortoise-shell print), mee koo (red-coloured buns), huat kuih (prosperity cakes) and t'ng tak (bright pink miniature sugar pagodas). These cakes symbolize longevity and prosperity for the year ahead.
To give you an idea of the ritual, here is a montage of images courtesy of Google:
This ritual is actually a thanksgiving offering to the Jade Emperor. Legend has it that in the old days, the Fujian province was invaded and the people took refuge in the sugarcane plantation. When they emerged from their hiding, it was already the Ninth day of Chinese New Year, the birthday of the Jade Emperor. Believing that it was the Jade Emperor who delivered them from their misery, the Fujian people offered thanks to the Jade Emperor and this ritual has been practised since.
Sugarcane in Hokkien/Fujian is kam chia which sounds like 'thank you' in the dialect, thus sugarcane is a must item included in the thanksgiving offering. The entire plant is being offered.
This worship is normally held at home with a table set up in front of the house to place the incense, food and drink offerings, and others. In places where there is a temple of Jade Emperor, it will be crowded the night of the 8th lunar day. No matter where the ritual is held - at home or at a temple - Chinese people always pray for better luck, safety, health, love or money for self and the whole family.
Happy Pai Ti Gong!
- Chinese New Year eve - the Reunion dinner
- Chinese New Year - the First day
- Chinese New Year - the Second day
- Chinese New Year - the Third day
- Chinese New Year - the Fourth day
- Chinese New Year - the Fifth day
- Chinese New Year - the Sixth day
- Chinese New Year - the Seventh day