A Red-letter Day

BIG LITTLE PEOPLE - Grace Chong (The Freeman) - February 22, 2015 - 12:00am

Last Thursday, we celebrated Chinese New year. Gong Xi FaCai!

In the restaurant where we dined, about 99 percent of the people were wearing red. The decoration was all in red, too. Wherever I looked, I saw the color red.

The occasion was indeed a red-letter day! Meaning, it was an important and significant event.

The term red-letter day dates back from the 1400s. It refers to the practice of marking feast days and other holydays in red on church calendars. Today, all holidays are marked red in all calendars.

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Aside from being a red-letter day, Chinese New Year is dominated by the color red because red is considered the luckiest color in China. No wonder it’s widely used during festivals and important events like weddings and birthdays. 

If you ever attend a Chinese celebration, wearing something red is always a good decision.


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The color red is associated with happiness and good fortune. It also symbolizes fire, one the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire). Fire is believed to ward off evil spirits.

If you happen to visit houses of Chinese people, you’ll find many of the décor in red.

During Chinese New Year celebrations, one will not miss seeing the Ang Pao. In fact, children look forward to receiving them. These are little red envelopes stuffed with crisp new bills. They are given by the older family members as a gift to the young ones.

Since this is the year of the goat (or sheep), various depictions of the goat decorate the Ang Pao.

Other than to children, ang pao may also be given by married couples as symbols of respect to elders in the family like lolos and lolas.

As a token of appreciation, household staff and employees are sometimes also given Ang Pao as rewards for a job well done!

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And speaking of red-letters days, weddings is one of them.

In Filipino weddings and many other weddings in the world, the bride wears white. But in most Chinese weddings, the bride wears a traditional Chinese wedding dress in red.

Well, today, the tradition of the bride wearing white to her wedding seems to be waning a little. I have recently attended a few weddings where the bride wore gowns in colors other than white – one wore gray, one wore green, and one wore a multi-colored printed outfit.

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How much do you know about the color red?

It is so popular that it has given birth to so many expressions over the years. Here are three you might be familiar with:

See red – to be angry. Ex. Whenever I get caught in a traffic jam, I see red.

Red-carpet treatment – being treated like a queen or king. Ex.We always give our guests a red-carpet treatment.

Red in the face – embarrassed. Ex. I was red in the face when I forgot someone’s name. 

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The red light is on. Meaning, stop. So this is where I end. Email me at: gdchong@gmail.com or visit my blogsite: www.leavesofgrace.blogspot.com.

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