Although there have been Chinese living in Philadelphia for many years, it was not until 1960 that the Chinese New Year was first publicly celebrated here. In this year, the Chinatown YMCA began sponsoring their New Year celebration at the Central YMCA. They wished to share their heritage of filial piety and respect for elders with the rest of the community.
In 1962, the Evening Bulletin reported: "Year of the Tiger Begins, But Chinatown Stays Calm." There was no community celebration or traditional "cleaning up" of homes and businesses. The City of Philadelphia had considered the future of Chinatown, and decided that if redevelopment and cleaning up could be accomplished there would be no need to change the essential character of the area.
In a letter to Mayor Tate, dated Nov. 1, 1962, Mr. T.T. Chang, on behalf of the entire Chinese community, petitioned for the alums of Chinatown to be removed, and undesireables kept out.
In a reply from the Sanitation Department of the City of Philadelphia, Mr. Chang was directed that this cleaning up process must be done by the community itself.
Since there was no way to force the people to undertake this task, Mr. Chang decided to promote the Chinese New Year, since it in customary at this time to clean, repaint, and generally improve homes,, stores, and businesses.
Since then, the New Year celebration has grown, with more and more participation by increasing community and civic groups, and individuals. The renovation of businesses and homes had increased business, and new stores and restaurants have opened in Chinatown. This year marks a significant increase in which all may be proud.
Chinese New Year is the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice (shortest day of the year). It is no longer a quiet day like all others -- the spirit of the benevolent dragon is awakening.
From the earliest times, noise was used to rout evil. The New Year traditionally climaxed a month of preparation -- house cleaning, physically and spiritually (and financially, too).
On this holiday, family and friends give expression to their hopes for peace, prosperity, good luck, and fortune, with happiness and the richness of many children. The unity of family, with close-knit ties is the most important and the main aspect of the celebration. Chinese filial piety towards elders and death is healthy and reassuring for no matter who or what a person has been, during his life, he is assured that he will not be absolutely forgotten in the age to come.
The great love and thankfulness for children and for family is central in almost every aspect of the Chinese New Year celebration. It is a day of family visiting, feasting, gaiety and noise. There is a heritage of legend and reason marked by special symbols behind all, which strengthens family love and responsibility.
Buildings were decorated with scrolls of red paper with appropriate sayings written on them.
Fish was feasting food, and the Chinese word for fish had the same sound as "plenty to spare."
Peonies designated richness, the emblem of lave and affection..
On New Year's, books had to be balanced and accounts closed. Traditionally, creditors could search all night of the last day of the year for their debtors, so long as one candle was burning in the lantern. Wonder how many overly enterprising creditors surreptitiously palmed a few extra candles to lengthen the time of their search?
If all the signs were right, it was good luck to marry on the first moon of the New Year or the last moon of the old year, so that the newlyweds could attend the family gatherings of the holiday together.
Rather than becoming 1 year older on their chronological birthdays, the Chinese became 1 year older on the New Year. Thus they don't sleep on New Year's Eve, since by staying awake, it does not become the New Year.! They finally go to bed New Year's morning -- without aging.
The custom of New Year cards is over 1000 years old in China. New Year's is visiting time. Calling cards are slips of red paper (the color of happiness, 'virtue, truth and sincerity) with the name, and good wishes of the visitor are left at the door of friends.
This is the year of the Serpent. The naming of calendar years comes from the ancient Chinese, who divided the course of the sun into 12 houses, each ruled by an animal. Huang Ti, the first Chinese emperor, decided their order by asking them all to have a race. The boar, who was slow and fat, naturally came in last. The ox who unlike our Western ox was very swift, should have come in first, but he was outwitted by 1 the sly and tricky mouse, who hid in the ox's hair and jumped off just before the finish line, beating his transportation by a whisker. Said mouse suffered pangs of guilt after this deceit and refused to be the first hour, appearing instead at midnight. And so we have the great procession of mouse, ax, tiger, rabbit, dragon, serpent horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar.