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About Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year
January - February

The Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays in China. This holiday period traditionally follows the lunar-solar Chinese calendar. The Chinese New Year celebration typically lasts for 15 days and is a time to reflect on the previous year and honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors so as to bring good fortunes for the new year. This new year is celebrated not only in China but also in many of the neighboring countries that have been influenced by China throughout history.

The exact origin of the New Year festival is unknown since the tradition is so old it pre-dates Chinese written history, which is reportedly one of the oldest writing systems in the world. It can be traced back thousands of years through a continually evolving series of colorful legends and traditions and has come to be known by a few different names: Lunar New Year, Chinese Lunar New year, or Spring Festival as it is more widely known outside of the Western world. Through migration and immigration to various countries, the tradition of celebrating the Chinese New Year has spread all over the world, and for that reason observations of the holiday can vary greatly between regions, and even between families within the same communities. However, there are some traditions that are very common among many public celebrations such as parades, performances of traditional dance and music, food and flower markets, and the general gathering of families for meals and good times.

The word "year" in Mandarin, the official language of China, is pronounced "Nian." According to ancient myths, there once lived a ferocious beast called Nian. Nian hid itself in the sea or under mountains, emerging annually to eat the village people and their livestock each year on the Chinese New Year's Eve. One year, the villagers were able to scare off the beast after learning that it was terribly afraid of loud noises and things bearing the color red. So it was then that the villagers began painting their doors or houses red and hanging red lanterns or banners with blessings written on them to ward off the monster. When Nian descended on the village for his annual feast of villagers, the village people were prepared and began banging on pots and pans, clashing symbols, ringing bells and lighting off firecrackers. In the midst of this several villagers took up an elaborate, brightly-colored lion costume and paraded through the village in an attempt to scare the monster away for good. The village was successful and the beast has never returned. This was the birth of what is now called the Lion Dance, a traditional dance performed by two or more dancers that wear an elaborate, intricately detailed lion costume. The Lion Dance is typically performed at public Chinese New Year celebrations as part of a story telling performance that also includes a similar depiction of the beast Nian. The story of Nian has been retold for centuries with different variances on the details, but nonetheless the traditions of decorating houses with red, the parade of the lion and lighting firecrackers has survived to be incorporated in most modern celebrations.

Much of the focus during the New Year celebration is on bringing in good luck, fortune, wealth and a more prosperous family in the coming year. Traditional preparations for the new year include thoroughly cleaning the home, sweeping out old dirt and dust, removing any remaining decorations associated with the previous year, and discarding any previous offerings made to gods or ancestors. These acts of cleansing the home represent a clearing out of old, bad luck and fortunes, in hopes the new year will bring in the good. Also, many food dishes are prepared in a special way to provide those feasting with the best chance for good luck. For example, long noodles, prepared in various dishes, are kept long (not broken) to represent a long life. Baked goods and sweets are often made in the shape of money and coins to represent wealth. Often whole fish or chicken is served as a main dish representing prosperity, which is either eaten by the entire family or simply displayed symbolically.

Since one of the main focuses of the celebration is to unite and strengthen family ties, departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family. Every member of the family plays a special role in the celebration, and much focus is placed on the children as they represent hope for the future. Another custom representing good luck and fortune is that on the morning of New Years Day, the younger generation will receive red envelopes containing money called "lai sze "or "lai see" from the older generation - parents, grandparents, relatives, close friends and even sometimes neighbors. The red packet symbolizes luck, wealth and blessings that the older generation is passing on to younger generations.

It is said that the events that take place on the New Year Day set the precedent for the entire year. It is also customary to greet others with a saying such as "Gung Hey Fat Choy!" which means "Wishing you Great Happiness and Prosperity!" So from all of us at® - Gung Hey Fat Choy! Enjoy the New Year!

Please note: Although we believe the information on this page to be accurate, its purpose is intended for the entertainment and enjoyment of our readers. It should not be taken as literal truth or used for research. We are human and make mistakes (rarely, but it does happen), so if you find a discrepancy, please email us and let us know. We will gladly update our information.

Click here to read some great quotes such as:

"A good fortune may forebode a bad luck, which may in turn disguise a good fortune."
~Chinese Proverb

"Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow."
~Fernanda Miramontes-Landeros

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