A Chinese New Year's in California by H. H.

The Chinese in California have a week of holiday at their New Year's in February, just as we do between the twenty-fifth of December and the first of January.

In the cities they make a fine display of fire-works. They use barrels full of fire-crackers, and the Chinese boys do not fire them off, as the American boys do, a cracker at a time; they bring out a large box full, or a barrel full, and fire them off package after package, as fast as they can.

In Santa Barbara, where I was during the Chinese New Year's of 1882, we heard the crackers long before we reached Chinatown. After these stopped we went into the houses. Every Chinese family keeps open house on New Year's day all day long. They set up a picture or an image of their god in some prominent place, and on a table in front of this they put a little feast of good things to eat. Some are for an offering to the god and some are for their friends who call. Everyone is expected to take something.

There was no family so poor that it did not have something set out, and some sort of a shrine made for its idol; in some houses it was only a coarse wooden box turned up on one end like a cupboard, with two or three little teacups full of rice or tea, and one poor candle burning before a paper picture of the god pasted or tacked at the back of the box.

It was amusing to watch the American boys darting about from shop to shop and house to house, coming out with their hands full of queer Chinese things to eat, showing them to each other and comparing notes.

"Oh, let me taste that!" one boy would exclaim on seeing some new thing; and "Where did you get it? Which house gives that?" Then the whole party would race off to make a descent on that house and get some more. I thought it wonderfully hospitable on the part of the Chinese people to let all these American boys run in and out of their houses in that way, and help themselves from the New Year's feast.

Some of the boys were very rude and ill-mannered—little better than street beggars; but the Chinese were polite and generous to them all. The joss-house, where they held their religious services, was a chamber opening out upon an upper balcony. This balcony was hung with lanterns and decorated. The door at the foot of the stairs which led to this chamber stood open all day, and any one who wished could go up and say his prayers in the Chinese fashion, which is a curious fashion indeed. They have slender reeds with tight rolls of brown paper fastened at one end. In front of the image or picture of their god they set a box or vase of ashes, on which a little sandalwood is kept burning. When they wish to make a prayer they stick one of the reeds down in these ashes and set the paper on fire. They think the smoke of the burning paper will carry the prayer up to heaven.

I asked a Chinese man who could speak a little English why they put teacups of wine and tea and rice before their god; if they believed that the god would eat and drink.

"Oh, no," he said, "that not what for. What you like self, you give god. He see. He like see."