Chinese New Year is a traditional Chinese holiday that is celebrated on the first day of the Chinese calendar. In 2017, the first day of the Chinese New Year falls on Saturday. January 28 – almost a month later than our normal New Year. This special day on the Chinese calendar is also celebrated in quite a different way than our is.
Traditions and Details about The Chinese New Year Celebration.
In China, the holiday is also known as the Spring Festival. The holiday traditionally runs for a full 15 days, which makes it the longest festival in the Chinese Calendar.
Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all of the animals to meet him on the Chinese New year. Since 12 animals came, Buddha named a year after each one. We still follow this tradition today when we study astrology and follow the Chinese years. (I’m a Goat, my daughter Jess is a dragon, and my husband is a rat! In the normal astrology pattern he is a fish and I’m a bull. Funny how my stubbornness seems constant isn’t it?)
Regional customs and traditions to celebrate the Chinese new year vary widely within China. There are some that are popular though throughout most of the provinces.
The evening preceding the Chinese New Year’s day is a time for Chinese families to gather for a reunion dinner. Families will often clean the house thoroughly to sweep away any bad fortune and to welcome in good luck.
Windows and doors are often decorated with red colored paper couplets with themes that deal with good fortune. We don’t decorate for New Year’s day here, but that makes sense, since our celebration is one day and theirs is two weeks.
Lighting firecrackers is also popular in much the same way as we love to do this for the fourth of July in the United States.
Many people give money in red paper envelopes. Red is considered the luckiest color in China, and it is widely used during festivals such as the Chinese New Year and other important events like weddings.
On the 15th day of the New year, the lantern festival is held. Some of the lanterns are real works of art, painted with birds, flowers zodiac signs and the like. A parade is held on Lantern festival day and children carry lanterns.
So that the Chinese Calendar will “catch up” with the solar calendar, the Chinese add an extra month every few years (7 years out of a 19 year cycle). This is similar to adding an extra day on our calendar for leap year.
Colors are important in the festival, with red and gold being used throughout the celebrations. The color red is chosen for two reasons. The first is because red is a considered a lucky color and the second because it is thought that the color will frighten off the monster Nian who is thought to come on New Years Eve. The color gold represents wealth so it is used in hope of coming riches in the new year.
Each year of the Chinese calendar celebrates a different animal. For all you poultry lovers out there, you will be delighted to learn that 2017 is considered the year of the Rooster in the Chinese astrological calendar.
Departed relatives are an important part of The Chinese New year. The holiday is a time to honor household and heavenly gods and to always honor relatives that have passed on.
As one would expect, the holiday is celebrated very differently depending on the generation. The younger generations of Chinese families now observe the holiday in a very different manner from their ancestors. For many young people, the holiday has changed from an opportunity to renew family ties to a chance for relaxation from work. Doesn’t that sound like some in the younger generations of our society too?
Looking for a neat Chinese DIY project? Try this idea for a No Sew Chinese Fortune Cookie. Get the directions here.
It is interesting to me that the Chinese New Year falls during the winter as our Christmas and New Year are. Originally, the celebration was set to coincide with a down time before the new year of farming started, and since many Chinese were farmers, this made sense. Today, even though most of their population is urban, as our is, they often still return to their rural roots for the holiday, just as many of us do when we visit family.
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