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Rhythm-A-Day Blog for January 24, 2020: Chinese New Year's Eve

Posted by Wolf Murphy on

Chinese New Year's Eve

Chinese New Year's is all about luck. Before the New Year, the entire house must be thoroughly cleaned to insure that no dust or dirt from the old year remains as the New Year approaches. Once spotless, each house is prepared with bright Red decorations—lanterns, Chinese knots, "Fu" ideograms, paper-cuts in the windows, and Spring Festival couplets.

A Chinese papercut showing the character Fú 100 times.
(Wikimedia Commons)

On the Lunar New Year's Eve, people put the ideogram for "Happiness" upside-down on their doors or walls, because the word for upside-down in Chinese sounds the same as the word for arriving. This play on the homophones (words with different meanings but identical sound) is intended to welcome happiness arriving throughout the coming year. There are more customs associated with insuring good fortune.

In ancient times, people hung small peach branches on their doors or gates to drive away evil. Over time these changed to boards of peach wood boards with Chinese characters on them; these evolved into papers with verse lines welcoming happiness and good fortune for the coming year. Eventually these became "spring couplets," their own unique form of literature.

After finishing decorating, the family gathers for an extravagant "family reunion dinner" with food and drink in abundance. A steamed or braised whole fish, representing surplus, is the most important course. About ten minutes before ringing the New Year's Bell—and how cool is it that they have a "New Year's Bell," right?—fireworks are set off to welcome the Kitchen God back from heaven. It is this deity who is in charge of the household's furtunes.

On New Year's Day itself, people do not sweep, wash, or dump trash out of the house, to make sure all the good fortune has time to settle into the home.

The quintessential musical expression during Chinese New Year is the Lion Dance, and the centerpiece of this music is—you guessed it—the drummer playing—you guessed it—the Lion Dance Drum! It is a large, double-headed bass drum.

One side is played with thick sticks, and rim shots are an important percussive technique. Here is a first long phrase. Where the drummer plays rim shots, we are playing Slaps; however if you have a dun or another drum appropriate for rim shots, have at it!

Today's Video Lesson


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