9 Things You Should Know About Chinese New Year
With February comes the Chinese New Year, you'll soon be hearing that greeting in the streets of your town or city. But how is Chinese New Year, also know as the Lunar New Year, actually celebrated?
We've compiled a list of things you should know about the Chinese New Year celebrations — now you can seek out events where you live and join in on the merriment.
When It Starts
The 15-day festival, which starts on February 19 this year, is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. It starts with the first new moon of each calendar year and ends on the full moon.
Food is a big part of Chinese New Year celebrations, and many meals are eaten with family and friends. Some traditional dishes for the holidays are nian gao cake, steamed rice pudding, long noodles, and dumplings.
Homes are cleaned top to bottom before the beginning of the new year, and all cleaning equipment is put away before New Year's Eve because it's believed that good fortune may be swept away if cleaning is done on New Year's Day.
Red is a key colour for New Year's celebrations, as it symbolizes a bright and happy future. People wear red clothing during the festivities, explains Colour Lovers, and children, unmarried friends, and close relatives are given little red envelopes (lai see) with money inside for good luck.
The Chinese New Year's Eve and New Year's Day holidays are very family-centered celebrations. Many dinners are held with family and friends, deceased relatives are honoured, and children receive gifts and participate in traditions like cleaning ahead of the celebration and the Lantern Festival.
There is a focus on ancestors and family members who have passed during the festival. On New Year's Eve, a dinner for ancestors is arranged at the family banquet table, so that all family members, deceased and living, can ring in the new year with a communal feast (called weilu), according to Nations Online.
Before New Year's Day, homes are decorated with trays of oranges and tangerines (which are also brought by visitors during the holiday), a candy tray with eight kinds of dried sweet fruits, and live plants and vases of fresh flowers. Wishes for the new year are written on red paper.
New Year's Eve
Firecrackers are set off on New Year's Eve to send out the old year and welcome in the new. In China, officials are trying to discourage fireworks displays this year in order to reduce air pollution, reports The Guardian.
Legend holds that the Chinese New Year began with a battle against a mythical beast called the Nian, who would come on the first day of the new year to eat children, livestock, and crops.
In order to protect themselves from the Nian, villages put food in front of their doors believing that the creature would eat that and leave everything else alone.
It was believed that the Nian was afraid of the colour red and firecrackers, so people would hang red lanterns outside and set off firecrackers.
So, Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy New Year), everybody!