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主題:節慶


台灣的傳統節慶


華人世界中,傳統節日大部分都按照農曆來訂定。所謂的農曆是指以月亮的盈虧為標準的曆法。在台灣有一本叫做「曆數」或「通書」的小冊子,書中列出了農曆的月日以及各種農事與民俗慶典活動。根據台灣中央研究院的調查,全台有83%的家庭都備有這本「通書」。


以下,舉幾個重要的傳統節日並加以說明,以下所提到的日期指的都是農曆。


華人新的一年是從春節開始。春節的時間大約在國曆的一月下旬到二月下旬之間。春節那一天,首先要祭拜祖先。祭拜祖先的地方叫做「廳堂」,在「廳堂」前擺一個供桌,供桌上有食物與花等供品,祭拜時,家庭的成員全都要到齊一起拜祖先。台灣的過年非常熱鬧,全家團圓、親友互相祝賀。大家放鞭炮,不僅驅邪避惡,也增添了過年的喜氣。


農曆一月十五日是「元宵節」,到了這一天過年算是告一段落了。這一天在台灣各地都舉辦燈會,展示各式各樣的花燈,大家一起吃「元宵」,猜燈謎。


到了三月,台灣的許多神明要迎接自己的生日,因此各地廟宇陸陸續續舉行慶祝神明生日的活動,非常熱鬧。其中一項盛大的活動就是,迎接維護海上安全的女神「媽祖」的祭典。台灣的北港與大甲的媽祖廟特別有名,所以一到了這個季節,便吸引來自台灣各地數萬名信徒搭著觀光巴士湧進媽祖廟參拜。


四月必須要提到「清明節」這個節日。「清明」原本是指從春分算第十五天,不過現在政府訂定國曆四月四日或五日為國定假日,以便一家人去掃墓。祭墳時,人們在墓前供奉豬、雞、魚或酒等物品,再燃燒紙錢送到天上給祖先。


五月五日是「端午節」,端午節的起源說法有許多種,其中最為普遍的是紀念中國古代賢臣屈原。這天每個家庭包粽子、吃粽子,很多人家的門前掛放菖蒲、艾草、榕枝等植物以驅蟲避邪,而在河流上進行的「划龍舟比賽」,則是端午節非常有看頭的水上競賽活動。
七月除了有浪漫的情人節「七夕」之外,也有「鬼月」之稱,這時地獄的門會打開,鬼會到人間活動。因此,農曆七月時,在台灣有些事情如搬家、購買房屋或車子、結婚,甚至出外旅遊等都被視為是禁忌的。「鬼月」中最主要的是七月十五日的「中元普渡」。由於鬼月時,「鬼」來到人間,做壞事。所以,七月十五日當天,人們在自己家的門前或廟裏供奉食物,施惠給「好兄弟」,希望「他們」不要危害人們。


    八月十五日是「中秋節」。這一天是月神的生日,所以每個家庭供奉月餅、水果等食物給月神。月餅是圓形的甜點,所以華人認為這是「一家團圓」的象徵。中秋節這天,以前的習俗是一家人一邊吃著月餅與豐盛的菜餚,一邊欣賞明亮的月娘,不過現在比較常看到的情景是,一家人一起在家前面烤肉。


十一月(國曆十二月二十二日或二十三日)的「冬至」也是很有趣的節日。這一天一家人一起吃「湯圓」,這甜甜黏黏的食物也代表著「一家團圓」與「幸福」,而且吃過湯圓後就表示增添了一歲。另外,祭拜祖先的「廳堂」也供奉「湯圓」,祭拜祖先與神明,以祈求歲末平安。


到了十二月,為了準備過年而有許多活動。二十四日要祭拜廚房神明,這個節日叫做「祭灶神」。由於這一天灶神要回到天上,跟玉皇大帝報告這家人一年來所做的好壞事,因此為了灶神能在玉皇大帝面前說好話,人們用麥芽糖來賄賂灶神。三十日是「除夕」,也就是這一年的最後一天。這天家家戶戶在家門貼上寫了吉祥話語的「春聯」,準備迎接新年。晚上一家人吃「團圓飯」,此時,象徵「年年有餘」這個吉祥話語的「魚」,是「年夜飯」不可少的一道年菜。因為中文中「餘」與「魚」的發音是一樣的。另外,這一天要「守歲」,也就是一家人談天說笑,徹夜不眠,直到爆竹聲霹靂啪啦響起。


總觀台灣整年的節日,你會發現許多節日都很顯然地呈現出人與鬼神、祖先的聯繫。透過這些節日,除了與祖先、鬼神連結之外,台灣人也藉由這些節日促進了人與人之間的關係,進行更深層的交流吧。



問題與討論

  1. 華人世界中,以什麼來訂定節慶?
  2. 這篇文章中,你最有興趣的是哪一個節日?
  3. 你對「鬼月」的看法如何?
  4. 華人的節日中可看到哪種特徵?
  5. 你曾經參與過的節日活動有哪些?
  6. 日本人如何過年?請你比較日本與華人世界過年的活動。
  7. 請你選一個華人傳統節日,並試著以外文介紹。

註一
清明,是二十四節氣中的第五節氣。《淮南子.天文訓》云:「春分後十五日,斗指乙,則清明風至。」《歲時百問》則說:「萬物生長此時,皆清潔而明淨,故謂之清明。」清明約當陽曆四月四日或五日。

Chinese Culture through Foreign Languages—Holidays and Festivals


Traditional Holidays in Taiwan

The Chinese lunar calendar fixes the dates of the majority of traditional Chinese holidays. The entire calendar is regulated according to the laws of the natural universe and the cycles of the moon. In Taiwan, people can consult a small volume entitled The Lunar Way or, more popularly, The Great Book, which offers all sorts of information and common wisdom about the ebb and flow of nature and the ways of universe. According to research compiled by the noted institute The Academia Sinica, as many as 83% of all Taiwanese families own a copy of The Great Book.

Below is a description of several important traditional holidays with brief explanations. Specific times are linked to the lunar cycle.

The traditional Chinese New Year begins with the Spring Festival, which usually falls in the western calendar between the end of January and the middle of February. The first day of the Spring Festival is devoted to paying respect to the family’s ancestors. The place in the home dedicated to ancestor worship is the family altar called ting tang. A table sits before the altar, and upon the table family members place various dishes of food, flowers, and other objects suitable for a ritualistic offering (incense, fruit and candles, for example). The ancestor worship ceremony calls for the participation of all the members of the family.

Taiwan’s “Chinese New Year” is quite lively. Extended families gather together as a single family, and relatives exchange joyful greetings and words of congratulations for the new year. Firecrackers are lit to frighten away bad fortune and add to the general color and noisy, festive atmosphere of the holiday.

January 15 on the lunar calendar is Lantern Festival, and with its arrival, the period of Chinese New Year officially ends. On this day, all over Taiwan, lights in lanterns of every shape and kind glow brightly. Everyone enjoys eating sweet pudding-like dumplings called yuan xiao and trying to solve riddles attached to the lanterns.

The month of March finds many of Taiwan’s deities celebrating their birthdays. Temples in virtually every corner of the land sponsor a variety of activities and celebrations. Among the celebrations, a particularly rich ritual marks the safe arrival after a long sea voyage of the goddess Mazu. Two of the most famous of all Mazu temples in Taiwan are called Bei Gang and Da Jia, and the Ma Tzu celebration is especially important for both. This feast for the goddess draws tens of housands of pilgrims from all around who participate in worship services in her honor in tour buses.

The fourth month on the lunar calendar celebrates Qing Ming Jie, popularly known as “Tomb Sweeping Day.” Qing Ming Jie originally occurred on the 15th day after the spring equinox, but in more modern times, to make travel back and forth to cemeteries more convenient for families, the government established the feast as an official holiday on the western calendar for April 4 or 5. Qing Ming Jie ceremonies occur at gravesites in cemeteries everywhere. It is common for loved ones to make ritual offerings of dishes of pork, chicken, and fish, and of wine or other preferred spirits, or other special foods. Family members may also burn ritual “money” in hopes of making life in the other world easier for their loved ones.

May 5th on the lunar calendar is Duan Wu Jie, or “Dragon Boat Festival.”  Many legends are attached to this feast, but the most widely known of the legends commemorates the ancient Chinese poet named Qu Yuan. These are the days on which many families gather together to shape hefty rice dumplings with their hands, wrap them in carefully selected bamboo leaves, and steam them to tasty perfection. Many Taiwanese draw colorful couplets on banners in large Chinese script that feature poetic verses or literary flourishes, and decorate doorways and walls with the banners. Dragon boat races are popular, and the hotly contested competitions on nearby rivers add to the color and excitement of Duan Wu Chieh.

In addition to marking the romantic “Chinese Valentine’s Day” on the 7th night of the 7th month, the 7th month of the lunar year also features gui yue, the Ghost Month. It is widely believed that during this special time, the doors of hell are opened, and ghosts are let free to wander about.  As a result, the 7th month of the lunar year finds many Taiwanese extremely sensitive to a passel of taboos. If you are wise, goes the common advice, do not sell or buy a house during gui yue, do not buy a new car, do not marry, do not embark on long journeys, and so on and so forth. The most crucial day for gui yue is the 15th day, called Zhongyuan Pudu Festival. On this special day, it is thought that ghosts are likely to appear to wreak havoc among the living. Therefore, on the 15th day of the 7th month, people are apt to stay put safely at home or to go to temples to make ritual offerings to show respect to “good brothers of the past,” sharing a hope that the gruesome “they” will not bring threats and harm to human affairs.

The 15th day of the 8th month is zhong qiu jie, or “Mid-autumn Festival.” This is the birthday of several divinities at this time of year, and so families gather to offer yue bing, popularly called “moon cakes” (heavy with oil, fat and calories, but also quite delicious), as well as fruit and other snacks to the powers above. Yue bing are round in shape, and sweet in flavor. Chinese therefore view the cakes as symbolic of family life that is happy and harmonious (“round,” making a complete circle). In the past it was common for families to gather on zhong qiu jie to enjoy moon cakes and a festive meal as they looked at the sky above to admire the “beauty on the moon.” In recent years, however, the holiday has changed somewhat. Now families enjoy cooking meat and vegetables over live fires of glowing coal, and adding condiments such as barbeque sauce.

The 11th lunar month (December 22 or 23 on the western calendar) celebrates dong zhi, winter solstice. This is another interesting holiday. On dong zhi it is popular to eat tang yuan, a sweet and sticky, stew-like soup which is supposed to stir thoughts of family unity and sweet good fortune. The eating of the “sticky” dough balls in tang yuan may prompt contemplation of “sticking” another year onto a person’s life. In addition to these aspects of the feast, Chinese may well show respect at their family altars for ancestors with ritual offerings of tang yuan and special prayers, another effort to plead for heavenly blessings.

Many activities to pave the way for a good guo nian or “Chinese New Year” occur in the 12th month of the lunar calendar.

On the 24th day of the month, Chinese may make ritual sacrifices to divinities of the houses in which they live. This is called “worshiping the god of the hearth.” Traditional belief has it that this is the day the god of the hearth returns to the Jade Emperor to offer a public report on the good or bad conduct of everyone in the family. It is therefore important to insure that sweet words be spoken in the presence of these divinities. Offerings of sweet candy are deemed highly effective.

The 30th day is chu xi, the last night of the lunar year. The whole family has kept busy on this day hanging ritual couplets all around to welcome the new year with words that seek good luck and blessings for the time ahead. The evening hours find families enjoying a meal that displays tuan yuan, or “unity as a family” and “wholeness.” The word for “fish” in Mandarin is yu (similar to the German “u” with an umlaut) and rhymes with the word for “overabundance.” Fish plays an important role in the dinner then, and symbolizes the family’s hope that the new year will be prosperous and, yes, full of abundance.

On this day, people see themselves another year older. The whole family shares words and smiles and stay up to “bring in the new year” (shou shui). On this night, people go to sleep in the early hours of the morning, when they can almost hear the sound of firecrackers exploding outside their windows.

As you consider the range of Taiwanese holidays over the course of a year, you are able to see how these special occasions reveal close links between human life and the world of spirits, and of ties with the ancestors of old. Passing through these various celebrations, in addition to lines that connect the lives of predecessors and the powers of the spirits above, you can also see that the people of Taiwan relate their holidays to enduring relationships in their personal lives. Ritualized celebrations like the ones pictured above call for Chinese people to participate closely in the lives of one another.


Discussion questions

  1. In Chinese culture, what calendar is used to set up holidays?
  2. Which holiday from this essay do you think is most interesting?
  3. What are your opinions about Ghost Month?
  4. What characteristics can one see in traditional Chinese holidays?
  5. Which holiday activities have you participated in? What were they like?
  6. Please compare and contrast holiday activities in Chinese and Western culture.
  7. Please choose a traditional Chinese holiday and try to describe it using English.

     
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