By Alan Wang
Earlier in the week saw the first new moon, marking the lunar New Year, celebrated widely in many countries across the globe, as well as by diasporic communities residing in Bedford. In the Chinese tradition, the lunar new year is known as 春节 (chūn jié), directly translating as the Spring Festival.
I want to share how some of these communities celebrate it through the fun intricacies of homophones. Keep in mind that everyone has a different way of doing it, and many of these traditions originated from and are mostly celebrated in certain regions of an incredibly diverse China.
The Spring Festival is celebrated for an entire lunar month. Preparations begin the month before, where 腊八粥(là bā zhōu), a congee with eight ingredients, is eaten. As with many traditions, the origins are often unclear, but one possible origin is of the Buddhist tradition, commemorating the breaking of Gautama’s fast and ushering in the New Year.
Another preparation is a thorough cleaning of the house right before the New Year. Our first homophone is 尘 (chén), which sounds like 陈 (chén). That is, out with the old, out with the dust (and a good way to get your kids to help with the cleaning).
On the night of the Spring Festival (the lunar New Year eve and also a new moon), families eat a 团圆饭（tuán yuán fàn), a reunion dinner. Two foods that are usually found in this meal are 年糕 (nián gāo), which sounds like raising up the year, and 全鱼 (quán yǘ), which sounds like a surplus. In other regions, dumpling is another popular meal.
In many places in the past (although there have been moves to phase this practice out in cities), families set off firecrackers starting at midnight to drive off nearby animals and evil spirits. Often, this would continue throughout the night, as they stayed up until the next morning.
The celebrations don’t just end there. Over the next two weeks, the entire community continues celebrating up until the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the full moon directly following the Spring Festival.
Alan Wang is a Bedford resident.