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Advice and red envelopes as the new year slithers in

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A vendor arranges lanterns at a shop selling Chinese New Year decorations. Photograph: Bloomberg

When Chinese New Year rolls around, my mother, who is half Chinese and lives in California, will start her superstitious rituals. She faithfully follows the Chinese zodiac signs and believes the yearly predictions.

The Chinese calendar is based on 12-year cycles.

This year, 2013, is the year of the snake, water is the element and black is the color of water, making it the year of the Black Water Snake.

If your element is water, which is associated with fire, metal or earth, the year of the Black Water Snake will bring you the best fortune in 2013.

Growing up, a few days before the Chinese New Year, my mother would pay all the bills for the month, clean the house, buy groceries, wash and gas up her car, and call us kids to tell us to do the same thing.

It is believed that on the first three days of the Chinese New Year, you should relax – not work or do strenuous activities – and have fun, as this pattern will lead into the new year.

Paying bills or buying things on Chinese New Year means that for the entire year to come, you will be giving away money or paying debts.

I remember when I was living in Atlanta in 2008, and my mother called to tell me to wash and gas up my car before the new year. That year, in February, Atlanta had its first snowy weather, which is rare as it doesn’t snow in the southern state of Georgia. I told her I wouldn’t be able to drive for a few days because of the snow, so I wouldn’t need to gas up. But I don’t think any excuse is good enough for my mother.

My Chinese zodiac sign is the rooster, and this year is a good year for the rooster, which is the most compatible sign with the snake, next to the ox. My mother says if I want to change career, start a business, or even get married, that this is a good year to do so, as the snake year is the best to make big decisions.

The Chinese New Year will begin on February 10, 2013.

It is an official public holiday in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. In San Francisco, California, Chinese New Year is celebrated with a parade, the largest Chinese New Year parade outside China.

In Cambodia, it is not a public holiday, but many people living here do celebrate Chinese New Year, as many are of Chinese ancestry.

The Chinese decorate their homes and workplaces in red and yellow. Red represents fire and good luck, as fire removes bad luck and evil spirits.

In addition, the Chinese prepare offerings of food, which include drinks, fruits, tobacco and baby pigs. On the night of New Year’s Eve, people go to the pagodas to make offerings, and traditional Lion Dancers can be seen the next day performing around town.

Red envelopes are used to put cash inside, and it is considered good luck to receive them.

I hope you find a red envelope in your possession, and have a happy Chinese New Year, or as my mother would say, “Gong Xi Fa Cai!”

The Social Agenda with Soma Norodom
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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